Saturday, July 22, 2017

Amicus Attorneys in Harris county custody cases

There are many, many fine attorneys that do amicus work in Harris county.

Here is a partial list of attorneys that will represent children in custody cases.

If someone's name does not appear - it does not mean that they are not good at what they do.

Prices vary according to their experience and years of practice.

A partial list of Amicus Attorneys in the Houston area:


Jetty Abraham

Damiane Banieh

Phyanka Bhandari

Rogers Boudreaux

Julie Brock

Allyson Brupbacher

Patricia Bushmna

Claudia Canalas

Rose Cardenas

Robert Clark

George Clevenger

Jennifer Davis

Laura Arteaga Francis

Karleana Farias

Leo Farias

Kelly Fritsch

Kathy Gardner

Angelina Gooden

Daniel Gray

Alex Hunt

Janet Heppard

Ashley Indelicato

Farrah Kamal

Michele Fulton Kilgore

Megan Kitutis Keimig

Delona Tucker Laxton

Angela Landa

Maria Lowry

Eric McFerren

Alice O'Neil

Georgann Oslesby

Elizabeth Pagel

Dara Percely

Stephanie Proffitt

Holli Palmer

Rocky Lee Pilgrim

Marsha Reed

Dawn Rankin

Alemia Rodriguez

Barbara Rice Stalder

Itze Navarro Soliz

Dennis Slate

Geric Tipsworth

Terisa Taylor

Hillary Unger


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sites to locate missing people

Here are just a few of the websites I use to try to find people that are missing:

Hint: Avoid sites that charge $30-$35 for one search. Most are out-of-date.


www.publicdata.com - around $40/year

www.reversephonedirectory.com

www.whitepages.com

www.switchboard.com

www.goggle.com

www.bing.com

www.dogpile.com

www.ask.com

www.metacrawler.com

www.zabasearch.com

www.tracersinfo.com

www.facebook.com

www.linkedin.com

www.twitter.com

www.myspace.com

www.instagram.com

www.youtube.com

www.snapchat.com

www.pipl.com

www.familycource.com

www.clusty.com

www.vivismo.com

District Clerk of the county you want - search criminal and civil cases

Real property records of the county you want

County Clerk for the county you want - Marriage records

The county jail for the county you want - lists inmates

The State of Texas inmate search website

The federal inmate search website

I. C. E.

The Bureau of Vital Statistics in Austin (keeps track of all divorces and other civil legal matters)

www.yellowbook.com

www.people.yahoo.com

www.pacer.uspc.uscourts.gov

If you have Social Security Number see if it's still active or "deactivated" due to death.

Search "obituaries"


Monday, July 3, 2017

Harris County CPS attorneys

Here is a partial list of attorneys that say they do CPS cases.  I know most of them. I would call any of them for a consultation if I had a CPS case.

Remember - if CPS contacts you, IMMEDIATELY hire a CPS attorney to help and guide you on this difficult and tricky process.

Bobbie Young

Rocky LeAnn Pilgrim

Dennis Slate

George Clevenger

Julie Brock

Jetty Abraham

Eric McFerrin

Les Shireman

Beth Arnold Trostad

Barbara Rice Stadler

Hillary Unger

Allette Williams

Thao Tran

Gigi Oglesby

Susan Solis



Or check out www.avvo.com - best FREE website to locate attorneys in your area.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Consult with an attorney BEFORE you do anything!

BEFORE you do anything, please call a lawyer. Pay for an hour of the professional's time. It's so much easier to nip issues in the bud instead of letting an issue grow until it's overwhelming and very expensive to fix.

Many people call me or post on www.avvo.com questions about what they should do.

Over 95% of the time my answer is "consult with an attorney about the facts of your particular case".

I especially encourage people not from Texas or unmarried people to consult with an attorney BEFORE moving in or getting pregnant. Many people are under totally false impressions about the law.

You can actually save a lot of heart-ache and money by learning the law BEFORE making life altering decisions.

Texas bans foreign laws

Here is another excellent Texas law update from Attorney Michelle O'Neil. 

New law goes into effect September 1, 2017.


New Texas law bans application of foreign laws

Texas Governor Abbott signed into law House Bill 45 which states that Texas and U.S. law supersede all other laws.

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: http://www.breitbart.com/texas/2017/06/16/texas-enacts-anti-sharia-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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Legislature made many changes in Texas laws in 2017

The Texas legislature met in spring of 2017 and have made any changes in all aspects of Texas laws.

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.


No one under 18 can marry in Texas after 9/1/2017

I just heard that a new law goes into effect in Texas on September 1, 2017.

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.


New Texas law on application of foreign laws

Here is another great article written by Michelle O'Neil - she has given me permission to published her outstanding articles on my blog.


Effective in 9/1/2017, New Texas law bans application of foreign laws

Texas Governor Abbott signed into law House Bill 45 which states that Texas and U.S. law supersede all other laws.

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:
http://www.breitbart.com/texas/2017/06/16/texas-enacts-anti-sharia-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

A big thank you to Laura - who answers my phones!

The lovely and talented (and a disabled vet) that answers my business phone (713-847-6000) is Laura.

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!




Mediations with no attorneys

I am one of the few Houston mediators that will do family law (divorce, custody, child support, visitation, etc.) mediations without attorneys.

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.

Friday, May 12, 2017

What is "community debt" in Texas?

Here is another excellent blog post done by Michelle O'Neil (Dallas, Texas) a few years ago on how Texas handles debts in the divorce process.

Debt in Divorce

   An excerpt from my book, Basics of Texas Divorce Law on debt division in divorce:
     To determine liability for a debt as between spouses, there are two inquiries – which person may be liable and which assets may be liable.
     A debt incurred by a spouse during the marriage is presumed to be a community property debt.  A debt incurred before the marriage is presumed to be separate property debt.  If a debt is incurred during the marriage, but the creditor agreed to look solely to the separate property of the spouse for satisfaction of the debt, then the debt may be a separate property debt.  Characterization of the debt as in the nature of community property does not determine the question of liability.  The designation of a debt as community property has no effect on which spouse may actually be liable for the repayment of the debt.  The fact that spouses are married, does not, by itself, create liability by one spouse for the debts of the other spouse.  The mere fact of marriage does not create joint liability on all debts.  If one spouse incurs a debt as the agent for the other spouse, or if the debt is for basic living necessities, then both spouses may be help jointly liable, together with the jointly help community assets.
     To determine which spouse’s properties may be liable, the marital property needs to be classified as to which spouse has the right to manage it – each spouse may have separate and community sole management property and there may be joint management property of both spouses.  A spouse’s separate property is not generally subject to the other spouse’s debt liability.  Further, each spouse has sole management and control over his or her community property that each would have owned except for being married, such as personal earnings.  This sole management community property may only be used to satisfy the debts of the spouse that manages the property or the joint debts.  Jointly managed property, such as a jointly titled asset, may be used to satisfy either spouses’ community or separate liabilities.
     When looking at borrowed funds, the examination goes further into the intent of the spouses in incurring the debt.  If the money is borrowed to benefit a spouse’s separate property, and the intent is to repay the funds using separate property, then the borrowed funds will likely be separate in nature.
     Most credit cards are opened with an account agreement.  From a contract law perspective, only the parties to the contract are bound to the terms of the agreement.  Therefore, it is simple to determine who is contractually liable if one has a copy of the account agreement – which hardly ever happens in practice.  If that is the case, the practitioner can utilize the credit report to determine if the spouse is contractually responsible, or just an authorized user.  Arguably, if a spouse is designated as an authorized user then that may create agency as defined above.  Alternately, if the purchases were for necessities, liability could be present regardless of whether one was an authorized user or not.
     Nevertheless, an authorized user should probably not seek to assume this unsecured liability in the decree.  If this is done, the authorized user will have a difficult time in restricting the future access of the other spouse to that account.  While an in junction may assist in protecting the authorized user, it would still be advisable to not seek responsibility for the payment of this debt.  Alternatively, the spouse who is the primary card holder should (as soon as legally possible) revoke the authorized user status of the ex-spouse to avoid problems.
     In determining the division of the overall estate, and debt in particular, it is important to determine which spouse and/ or assets may be liable for the debt and divide the debt according to liability.  Otherwise, if a debt is allocated in a divorce to a spouse who is not legally liable, then the spouse has little motivation to pay and there are few legal remedies available in the court system to force payment against a non-willing spouse.  Further, the credit of the spouse incurring the debt can be damaged by relying on the nonliable spouse to make payment.
     The division of debts between the spouses has no effect on the creditor’s ability to collect the debt.  Even if one spouse is allocated the debt in the divorce, if the debt is one for which the other spouse is liable, the creditor can seek payment from the other spouse regardless of the wording of the divorce decree.  The only recourse that a spouse has in such a situation is to sue the spouse that was supposed to pay and seek reimbursement.
     One way to conclusively address debt and liability in a divorce is to allocate other assets to pay the community debts of each spouse, leaving fewer assets but no debts to divide.  When possible, the system allows both spouses to leave the marriage with a "clean slate."

Sunday, May 7, 2017

I married in another country so can I divorce in Texas?

If you have lived in Texas at least 6 months and lived in the same county for at least 90 days then Texas has jurisdiction over you to grant you a divorce.

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.




How can an illegal alien get a divorce in Texas?

I get asked this question a lot - how can an illegal alien get a divorce in Texas?

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

5 websites to learn about Texas laws

Texas Young Lawyers
http://tyla.org/tyla

State Bar of Texas
https://www.texasbar.com

Houston Bar Association
https://www.hba.org

Texas Law Help
http://texaslawhelp.org

Texas Probate
http://texasprobate.com

I'm a teenage and I want to leave home - what can I do

I get this question all the time.

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.


My spouse left and I have no money - what can I do?

If you and your spouse are not on good terms, then you have no choice but to file for divorce in Texas.

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.


Are we common law married in Texass?

If you go to a courthouse in Texas and fill out the form to establish a common law marriage then you are as married as anyone else in Texas.

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

Visitation with an infant by Attorney Michelle O'Neil of Dallas (www.dallastxdivorce.com)

Here is an excellent post from Attorney Michelle O'Neil from Dallas.

Her website is 

ww.dallastxdivorce.com

I highly recommend her website and her wonderfully written articles.

Controversial subject: noncustodial parent possession over an infant

infant and fatherArizona State University has weighed in on a controversial subject – the quantity and quality of access of a noncustodial father to an infant child. “New research from Arizona State University shows that children, no matter what their age, benefit from having time with each parent that includes sleepovers at each home,” the article says. (See Overnights with dad benefits kids of divorce – no matter their age)
The study entitled “Should Infants and Toddlers Have Frequent Overnight Parenting Time with Fathers? The Policy Debate and New Data” was published February 2, 2017 in the American Psychological Association Journal of Psychology, Public Policy and Law.
ASU Associate Professor of Psychology William Fabricius, and lead author of the study, says that overnight parenting time with fathers during infancy and toddlerhood “causes no harm to the mother-child relationship” and actually it appears to benefit the children’s relationships with both mother and father. “Children who had overnights with their fathers when they were infants or toddlers had higher-quality relationships with their fathers as well as with their mothers when they were 18 to 20 years old than children who had no overnights,” Fabricius said.
The study was co-authored with ASU graduate student Go Woon Suh. The study revealed that the amount of parenting time small children had with their fathers when they were older did not makeup for the overnights they missed during their first few years. The increase in overnights during infancy and toddlerhood matched an increase in the strength of the bond between the father and their grown children. The findings were not changed depending on the level of conflict between the parents or whether the overnight parenting with the father was by agreement or over the objection of the mother.
“Having to care for their infants and toddlers for the whole cycle of evening, bedtime, nighttime and morning helps dads learn how to parent their children from the beginning,” said Fabricius, who studies father-child relationships and the impact they have on the child’s health and well-being. “It helps dads and babies learn about each other, and provides a foundation for their future relationship. Other studies have shown that programs that encourage married dads to take more responsibility for infant care help those dads learn better parenting skills, and we think that the same kind of thing happens when divorced dads have overnight parenting time.”
The mother-child relationships were improved when father’s had overnights, presumable because of the decrease in stress associated with sharing the responsibilities.
These findings differ from the position of many family court judges. In Texas, there is no presumption as to what the parenting time schedule should look like for infants and toddlers. Some judges have a restrictive view that a father’s parenting time should be frequent and limited with an infant based on research studies about memory development of infants. A common possession schedule under this view might look like this:
Children Under Six Months of Age:
  • Weekdays: On Wednesdays and Fridays of each week from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. that same day.
  • Sundays: On Sundays of each week from 4:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. that same day.
  • Alternative Times: For three periods of two hours each during any seven-day period, with no more than two days between periods of possession whenever possible.
Children Between Six Months & Eighteen Months of Age:
  • Weekdays: On Wednesdays and Fridays of each week from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. that same day.
  • Sundays: On Sundays of each week from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. that same day.
  • Christmas: From Noon until 4:00 p.m. on Christmas Day each year.
  • Thanksgiving: From Noon until 4:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day each year.
  • Birthday: From 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. on the child’s birthday each year.
  • Alternative Times: For two periods of two hours each and one four hour period during any seven-day period, with no more than two days between periods of possession whenever possible.
Children Between Eighteen Months and Three Years of Age:
  • Weekdays On Wednesdays and Fridays of each week from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. that same day.
  • Sundays: On Sundays of each week from Noon until 6:00 p.m. that same day.
  • Christmas: In odd-numbered years from Noon until 6:00 p.m. on December 26th of each year. In even-numbered years from Noon until 6:00 p.m. on December 25th of each year.
  • Thanksgiving: In odd numbered years from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day each year.
  • Birthday: From 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. on the child’s birthday of each year.
  • Alternative Times: For two periods of two hours each and one six hour period during any seven-day period, with no more than two days between periods of possession whenever possible.
Children Three Years of Age and Older:
  • Standard Possession Order.
Other Texas judges believe the standard possession schedule should apply to infants and toddlers. Even other judges have been known the order equal parenting time for both parents no matter the age of the child. This issue is very controversial and emotional for mothers and fathers.
Texas Family Code sec. 153254 provides the factors for a court to consider when determining an access schedule for a young child:
A) The court shall render an order appropriate under the circumstances for possession of a child less than three years of age. In rendering the order, the court shall consider evidence of all relevant factors, including:
  1. the caregiving provided to the child before and during the current suit;
  2. the effect on the child that may result from separation from either party;
  3. the availability of the parties as caregivers and the willingness of the parties to personally care for the child;
  4. the physical, medical, behavioral, and developmental needs of the child;
  5. the physical, medical, emotional, economic, and social conditions of the parties;
  6. the impact and influence of individuals, other than the parties who will be present uring periods of possession;
  7. the presence of siblings during periods of possession;
  8. the child’s need to develop healthy attachments to both parents;
  9. the need for continuity of routine;
  10. the location and proximity of the residences of the parties;
  11. the need for temporary possession schedule that incrementally shifts to the schedule provided in the prospective order under Subsection (d)[The Standard Possession Order] based on: a) the age of the child; or b) minimal or inconsistent contact with the child by a party;
  12. the ability of the parties to share in the responsibilities, rights, and duties of parenting; and
  13. any other evidence of the best interest of the child.

What to do if pregnant and unmarried in Texas

Fran Brochstein
www.familylaw4u.com
713-847-6000


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.


Secrets to picking a good family law mediator in Texas

How to pick a mediator
By Fran Brochstein 
www.familylaw4u.com    
office 713-847-6000                                                                                

Anyone that takes a 40-hour intro course in Texas can call themselves a mediator.

Scary?

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. 

After doing this over 10 years I can tell you that after I took the basic training I was dangerous. I was a lot like a kid that had just gotten their training wheels off their bike - unsteady and wobbly - unsure of what I was doing.

I had been an attorney for 15 years when I took the basic training to be a mediator and I had attended many mediations as an attorney - but shifting to the mediator role was very different.

Mediation requires vastly different skills than litigation. It takes a while to develop and grow as a neutral facilitator (aka “mediator”).

I take a lot of continuing legal education even as a mediator.  Why? Because I take classes in family law and mediation. I can honestly say that I learn something at class that I attend. I call it "adding to my tool kit".

So if I was looking for a mediator this is what I would do - 

I would want one that is Credentialed by the Texas Mediator Credentialing Association.  

I also belong to the Association of Attorney Mediators. They offer malpractice coverage for their members. There is an application process that is required to join and a potential member must have letters of recommendation from people that they have mediated for in the past.

I find that many mediators do not carry malpractice coverage. Quite frankly, it's difficult to pursue a malpractice claim against a mediator, but I like knowing that I have coverage in case someone attempts to sue me.

I also belong to the following mediation groups:
Association for Conflict Resolution - Houston Chapter
Texas Association of Mediators (TAM)
Academy of Professional Family Mediators
Association of Family & Conciliation Courts
Texas Mediator Roundtable (for trainers of mediation)
Houston Bar Association - ADR section
State Bar of Texas - ADR section

I have found that there are only a handful of Houston family law mediators that belong to most of these groups. Quite frankly, it's expensive to belong to all these groups so don't fault a mediator if they don't belong to all of them. However, I think that a committed serious mediator needs to belong to at least a couple. 

You also need to be aware that anyone can call themselves a mediator because, at this time, Texas does not regulate the field of mediation. And, you do not need to be an attorney to be a mediator. In fact, some excellent mediators are not attorneys.

Please don't assume any attorney can be a mediator. In fact, a good litigator has a hard time shifting into the mediator role. I've caught myself in mediation having to take a break and remind myself that I am only the mediator and I cannot give legal advice or tell the person that their attorney is wrong even though I know the legal advice is incorrect. It's difficult to keep my mouth shut, but if I serve as a mediator then I must carefully walk this potential minefield.

In my introduction I like to remind the parties that today they are the “boss” and they are the ones making all the decisions. I also remind them that I have no “magic fairy dust” to make everyone be reasonable.


I’ve heard it said that if a settlement is reached at mediation and both parties "hate" the mediator then that is a good mediation. The mediator’s role is to be neutral and to help the parties reach a resolution they can both live with.