Tuesday, June 20, 2017
So you probably need to talk to an attorney about the law now in effect in Texas.
Many laws go into effect as of September 1, 2017, but the legislature is allowed to modify this start date.
From now on, no one under 18 can marry. That includes even if a parent is giving permission.
The only way to marry is to first emancipate which costs a lot of money. Then once emancipated the former child will be considered an adult and can marry.
Basically, anyone under 18 will no longer be able to get married in Texas.
So if you are under 18 and want to marry do so immediate since ending on August 31, 2017 that option goes away under TX law.
The law prohibits Texas judges from enforcing or upholding any law or order from another country that infringes upon U.S. and Texas constitutional rights. The bill shields litigants in family law cases “against violations of constitutional rights and public policy in the application of foreign law” under the U.S. and Texas Constitutions, federal and judicial precedent, the Texas Family Code, and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, among other protections.
The law requires the Texas Supreme Court to adopt rules by January 1, 2018 to enforce the law, but it goes into effect on September 1, 2017.
I’m confident that the purpose the legislature intended was to prevent Islamic marriage contracts from being enforced as prenups in Texas.
It was also designed to derail enforcements of agreements made in a settlement dispute resolution center in Dallas set up by the Islamic church to resolve family law matters.
However, the law is much more broadly worded and may actually have the unintended effect of setting aside a foreign country’s judgment for child support or alimony or parenting time with a child if the foreign law considers a standard that differs from Texas law.
Here’s a link to an article about the new law:
Here’s a link to the Texas Legislature enrolled bill: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/85R/billtext/pdf/HB00045F.pdf#navpanes=0
Friday, May 26, 2017
I hired her because my son-in-law is former military. I wanted to support a former military member that currently has some challenging health issues. So working from home works for her and me.
She's been answering my phones over a year! We have learned a lot about scheduling. Everything time I think that I've taught her all she needs to know about scheduling a mediation, a new "glitch" shows up! It certainly keeps us on our toes! She is flexible and we both try creative ways to make schedule mediations easier and more efficient.
I purposely hired her because she does not know the law and won't give anyone any legal advice! (Several people have yelled at her but I since I'm on the Unauthorized Practice of Law committee in Houston with the State Bar of Texas I don't want any problems.)
She is a great lady that also an amazing seamstress. She does lots of costumes for events like Ren. Fair. If you need a costume, call her!
She is a mom of 2 girls and is going to be a grand-mother soon.
She tries hard to keep me "organized" and she controls my calendar. She calls my calendar "the bible of Fran" and she keeps with her at all times.
So if you talk to Laura be sure to thank her for her service to our country!
Why? Because I've been mediating full-time and I've learned how to carefully screen people that want a mediation.
Quite frankly, most people don't understand why mediation can and cannot do in Texas.
I often suggest that the people research Texas family law or consult with an attorney so that they understand the litigation process. After doing so, most decide that the mediation process is the path they would like to persue first before hiring attorneys.
Unfortunately, I learned a lot over the years. For example, I won't even book a mediation until both parties assure me that they understand the limits of mediation (I don't give legal advice or draft final legal paperwork). And both parties must pay their 50% deposit in order to be placed on my calendar.
I've had too many pro se parties just not show up or one party says they will show up but then "disappears" on their appointment time. I only work with people that are truly committed to looking to an alternative to litigation.
I cannot force anyone to attend mediation. However, a judge can "force" you to attend mediation by a court order.
What most people don't understand is that in Harris County, Texas family courts basically over 85% of the cases will be sent to mediation before a person can have a trial. Judges have learned that mediation works and it more efficient for people. Judges see that people that settle their issues at mediation are happier and are able to co-parent much easier.
I even do mediations with protective orders in place. Yes, they are trickier than the usual case, but it can be accomplished and the protective order not violated.
I can honestly say that I save the people I work with thousands of dollars in legal fees.
In one case, I had a long term marriage (over 35 years) with millions in assets and I can truthfully state that I saved that couple easily over $100,000 in legal fees. If attorneys had gotten involved, the discovery process alone would have been thousands of dollars. In this case it took approx. 6 mediation sessions and the couple agreed to hire a financial consultant to review all their assets (no debts) so that both clearly understood the value of their estate.
I find this work very personally rewarding. A lot less stressful than litigation and people are so much happier at the end of our mediation session. I got lots of hugs (often followed up with thank you notes and/or gifts) because young executives understand the value of my services.
As a mediator, I've chosen to charge approx. 50% less than what I charge as an attorney. Why? Because my stress factor is so much less and I find it fun to do. It's creative. It's challenges me.
Yes, I could easily charge a lot more, but I have built a loyal following of attorneys that appreciate my respectful and professional approach to mediation. I do several free mediations per month for Houston Volunteer Lawyers and Harris County Dispute Resolution Center because I believe that everyone should be able to attend mediation.
I don't believe that "bullying" or forcing someone to settle. I offer options and make suggestions but the parties are the "boss" of their Mediated Settlement Agreement. I generally just offer "motherly advice" (or for younger folks - "grandmotherly advice") based on the fact that I've been a family law attorney over 25 years and I'm on marriage #3! I've been a parent and step-parent and I've learned a lot just through life experience.
So if you want to save money, handle your matter privately and have control over the process, you should consider mediation.
On my website - www.familylaw4u.com - I have lots of info on mediation and my mediation packet.
Mediate - don't litigate.
Sunday, May 7, 2017
It does not matter where you married. In some parts of the world, they don't do "marriage licenses". That does not matter. If you want a divorce then you just need to file a Divorce Petition and begin the lawsuit process. And, yes a divorce is a lawsuit.
The filing fee is around $300 - varies county to county.
Houston is an international city. We are more diverse than New York City! So just because you are from another country does not mean that your case is unusual or unique.
So hire a family law attorney to assist you.
The free divorce forms are on www.texaslawhelp.org. You should print them out and read about divorce in Texas. A couple of days ago I posted several websites that are excellent for Texas residents. So look at that post and visit those websites for more info about Texas family law.
The Texas Family Code is available on-line for free. It's a long document so don't print it out. The TX Family Code controls marriage, divorce and children issues.
In summary, no matter where you married if you live in Texas then the courts of your county have the authority to grant you a divorce.
However, the laws of another country might not agree with the State of Texas laws. So if you are moving back to your other country you might want to hire an attorney in that country to make sure that your divorce is valid in your country too.
It can get confusing when dealing with laws from other countries. If possible, hire someone that is from your country so they might understand the laws in your original country.
In the US, divorce is handled by each state. So if the children are not in Texas, then probably it will be the state where the kids reside. Child support, custody and visitation varies state-to-state. Quite frankly, it can be very confusing.
1. They must have lived in Texas at least 6 months and in the same county for at least 90 days. Once this happens you are considered a resident of Texas. It does not matter if you are illegal or not. If you are living in Texas then you are a Texas resident - legal or illegal. By merely being here you are agreeing to follow the laws of the US and the State of Texas.
If you don't want to follow the laws of the US and the State of Texas, then leave this country (and state).
By merely driving a vehicle on our roads, you are agreeing to follow the laws of Texas and the US. For example, Texas has laws about car seats for small children and if you are driving a vehicle in Texas you must follow this law or risk fine or arrest.
2. I live in Houston and we handle illegal alien legal issues on a daily basis. Your case is not unusual or unique.
3. Immigration issues - you need an attorney that handles immigration and family (divorce) law or you need 2 attorneys one for immigrations and one for family law.
4. No Social Security number - no problem.
5. Can you be deported? I cannot say 100% that the constable in the courtroom won't arrest you. If the constable runs your name and it turns out that there is an arrest warrant out for your arrest, you will probably be taken into custody and turned over to the policing agency that filed the arrest warrant.
So if you know you have outstanding warrants and you go into the courtroom and make a "fuss" or piss off the constable then he/she might run your name to see if there are any outstanding warrants.
If the other party, comes to court and tells the constable there is an outstanding warrant for your arrest, and the constable then runs a search you might be arrested.
In summary, around the Gulf Coast and border close to Mexico, dealing with illegal aliens happens in the civil courts on a daily basis.
Houston is an international city and we handle divorces for people from all over the world. It does not matter where you married in order to get a divorce. What matters is that you are living here now and the State of Texas regulates divorce for its residents.
If in doubt, hire an attorney to help you.
Friday, May 5, 2017
The moment you turn 18 on your birthday you are free to leave. You leave with the clothes on your back. You can only take things that belong to you - gifts, things you paid for (have the receipt) and things that your parents let you take. If they say no, then the item stays.
You are free to call your local policing agency (police, constable or sheriff) and talk to them about their policies. Normally they will escort you off the property but they don't have the time or manpower to watch you load up your vehicle with "stuff".
So if your parents bought you a bed, a computer, phone, etc., it belongs to them unless they allow you to take it.
You can attempt to emancipate at 16 or 17. (If you are under 16 then you are just plain out of luck). Judges don't like to do this. It is very expensive. I would estimate the cost to be at least $5,000 or more. And it does not mean the judge will sign the paperwork. For example, I require a $10,000 deposit to begin this process - that stops most teenagers because they would rather buy a car then spend money on an attorney that might not be successful.
I don't understand what teen-agers hope to do by emancipating. Most apartments won't lease to you since you won't have a credit rating. You probably don't have a bank account. If you have a job, odds are it low paying and landlords expect you to show that you can afford to pay the rent.
The only teen-agers to emancipate in the Houston area are usually sports figures and/or musicians. They need to be able to sign legal contracts (which you cannot do until you are 18 or emancipated) for endorsement deals. Even then, the judge makes everyone jump through lots of hoops.
To merely file a new lawsuit (emancipation is a lawsuit) is around $300 to the county clerk where you live.
If you have a friend or family member that is going to let you live with them that is NOT enough to emancipate. You must be 100% self-supporting without anyone else's help.
Emancipation is called "removal of disabilities" in Texas. The Texas Family Code is available on-line for free. Read about removing disabilities if you are interested in researching this matter.
If your parents are willing to let you move in with another family or person, that person should be an authorization by a notarized document to register you in school and take you to the doctor. It also avoids having the police show up and threaten to arrest the person for having you in their home.
If I was the person letting you move in, I would not let you move in until I had met with an attorney in person and made sure that I had your parent's permission to allow you into my home. Quite frankly, it's just not worth the risk or possible hassle with policing agencies.
Yes in Texas after the age of 12 you can meet with a judge and tell the judge who you want to live with but the judge is NOT bound by your wishes. The judge determines what is in the child's "best interests". The term "best interests" is not defined in the Texas Family Code.
If you are unhappy, talk to your school counselor, religious leader, or a medical provider. If you are in danger they are required by Texas law to report it to the authorities.
Beware of making unfounded allegations since it opens the door to CPS. And, since most families don't want teen-agers in Texas there are "facilities" for teen-agers to live until they turn 18. Most are in small towns (so if you are in Dallas or Houston the odds are that you won't be housed in your town) and it's not a prison -- but it has no "frills". The kids I've known that got sent to one of these places tend to later claim that no abuse occurred in order to try to escape from these places. Plus, the other kids there are usually in crisis mode too and many come from horribly disfunctional and even violent homes. Some of these kids don't talk - they just like to fight. And many of these kids have been in CPS custody their entire lives and don't like newcomers showing up.
If your situation is dangerous, then make outcry to a medical care provider or school employee. Again, they are required by law to report it. You can also call 911 or CPS yourself.
In closing, the good news is that you will soon be 18 and you can make decisions for yourself. We've all been teen-agers and it's a period of my life that I would never want to re-live. It sucked - but I did survive it. And if you are smart, you will survive these teen-age years.
Texas does not have legal separation so a divorce needs to be filed.
If children or money (or lack of money) is an issue, you need to file for a divorce and ask for the judge to enter temporary orders while the divorce is pending.
A spouse cannot leave and abandon the other spouse and children.
But if you don't do anything then the judge cannot help you.
If you have no money, I suggest you borrow money from a family member or friend to hire an attorney. If one spouse controls all the money then the judge might order that spouse to pay the other spouse's attorney fees (or a portion of their other person's legal fees). However, it is up to the judge.
I'd use www.avvo.com for an attorney in your area. It's the best free site that I know of on the internet.
If you want to do it yourself without an attorney (good luck!) then use the free Texas forms at www.texaslawhelp.org - these forms are very basic and don't include retirement, real estate, brokerage accounts.
Please do NOT use a paid site - especially one out-of-state - I have seen their forms and they are laughable. Their guarantees are worthless.
If you have money, please hire an attorney and do it right. For example, in order to divide a retirement account, a specific legal document must be prepared to order the company handling the retirement money to do things to divide the account. A final decree of divorce is NOT enough. There is a legal document that ORDERS the company to act. Otherwise, without this legal paperwork you might be ordered to receive the money but if the other spouse spends it (hides it, gambles it away, etc.) then you are out of luck.
It is heart-breaking when a person calls years after the divorce has been finalized and they did not do the paperwork and now the money is gone.
There is often nothing that can be done at that point to recover the money. (If the person has other assets, then a lawsuit might be appropriate to recover the money but it won't be fast or inexpensive. Attorneys charge thousands to "fix" bad divorce paperwork.)
If you are totally alone and have no money then you can look on the State Bar of Texas website for a pro bono (free) organization in your county. Expect to wait for months for a free attorney. These pro bono groups are understaffed and underfunded. These pro bono groups do NOT accept everyone that calls them. They make you just through tons of hoops and then still don't get you an attorney.
To end the marriage, you need a divorce. A judge must sign a legal document ending the marriage.
There are many common misunderstandings about common law marriage in Texas.
Some that are wrong are --
1. We have lived together 7 or more years. If that is it, then you are NOT married in Texas. In Texas you can be together for 24 hours and be common law married IF you do things to show you intend to be married.
2. My fiance is married already to someone else. Can we also be common law married in Texas? No! In Texas you can only be married to one person at a time. Therefore, if a person is married no matter what they do they are not married to another person. Being married to two people is bigamy which is a crime in Texas.
Plus, bigamy is only prosecuted by the District Attorney. And, quite frankly, it is rarely prosecuted since DA's are busy with serious, violent criminals.
Note: There are a few exceptions where a common law marriage should be presumed to be valid but you will need a brilliant and aggressive attorney to make this argument and a judge that is extremely flexible in the interpretation of Texas laws.
3. We have kids together. Sorry - not enough to be common law married. If you break up the children issues to be handled through the court system such as child support and a child visitation arrangement -- but no community property to divide.
4. I am 14 - can I common law marry my boyfriend? No. Marriage under the age of 16 is not allowed in Texas so you don't qualify to establish a common law marriage.
You must be over the age of 18 (age of adulthood in Texas) in order to establish a common law marriage.
5. A friend called me "his wife" and he did not correct the person. So are we common law married? Again, not enough.
6. We file our taxes are single, but I think we are common law married. Filing your taxes as single shows that you do not intend to be in a common law marriage. It will be used against you in the courtroom. This argument against a common law marriage can be rebutted but if you want to be married then you need to act like you are married for everything - you cannot pick and choose.
7. I was common law married but we have not lived together for more than 2 years - is that a common law divorce? In Texas, it can be presumed that after splitting up more than 2 years that there was never any intent to be common law married. However, this presumption can be overcome.
As you can see, it complicated.
If you want a common law marriage do things like (not an all inclusive list):
Both of you must be an adult and mentally competent
Both of you must agree to be married to the other person
You have to tell others that you are married
You have to do paperwork to be married - file taxes together, have joint bank accounts as spouses, put the other person on your insurance as your spouse, add the person to your health insurance as your spouse, etc. In other words, leave a paper trail. And you both have to participate - one person cannot do something behind the other party's back - you must both participate in showing you intend to be married.
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
If I were pregnant and unmarried in Texas, I would definitely meet in person with an experienced and full-time family law attorney BEFORE the baby is born.
Please don't listen to your friends and relatives. They mean well but they often give horrible advice that hurts you in the long run.
What happened in your parent's divorce many years ago is probably wrong today. The Texas Family Code is modified every 2 years by our Texas Legislature and laws change! Texas has become much more father friendly than the laws were many years ago.
I would want to understand what the laws are in the State of Texas regarding parental rights, DNA testing, child support, child visitation (especially for a baby) and what I need to do to protect myself (and my baby).
Unfortunately, many times I get phone calls after the baby is born and after the mother has made many "poor" choices. She listed to her aunt, best friend, mom, or someone she works with -- they are not attorneys and they don't know the law. They want what is best for you. But what is best for you is actually taking the time and money to talk to a real attorney about the judge(s) in your county and how the judge(s) tend to rule in non-married cases.
Basically in Texas, the laws and the judges expect parents to co-parent their child. It does not matter if the dad wanted the mom to have an abortion, if a man shows up to court and is willing to be a part of his child's life, the judge is going to encourage his participation.
In fact, it is PRESUMED joint custody in the State of Texas. With strong facts, this presumption can be overcome but parents need to understand that the laws of Texas (and the judges) want both parents to work together in a peaceful way for their child.
There are these parental decisions called "rights and duties" that are very important. Most people have never heard of them or even thought of them.
Additionally, usually in Texas the judges will order the parent that determines the residence of the child to remain in close proximity to the other parent. So if a baby is born in Harris County normally the judge will order that the parent that wants to be the "primary parent" to remain in Harris county and any county contiguous (touching) to Harris County.
In summary, please talk to an experienced family law attorney BEFORE the baby is born.
What is more frightening, is that anyone can call themselves a mediator. There is no regulation of mediators in the State of Texas.
I bet you did not know that fact!
The State Bar of Texas regulates attorneys - not mediators.
In fact, in Texas there is only one organization that credentials mediators. Belonging to the Texas Mediator Credentialing Association is totally voluntary and they have a grievance process for only their members in the State of Texas.
I find that very few family law mediators join the TMCA. Therefore, there is no grievance process or any governmental agency that controls the mediator if you are unhappy with the mediator's services.
I also belong to the following mediation groups: