Sunday, January 27, 2013

I hired a marketing consultant for 2013

I just hired, Sarah Zomper, an Austin, Texas marketing consultant to help me assess my marketing strategy for 2013.

When she worked at Pierpont in Austin she did work for one of the sub-committees of the State Bar of Texas so she is familiar with attorneys & their needs. She won some awards while at Pierpont & she fits into the age demographic that I am trying to appeal to.  As a consultant, I like her prices.

I need to market to people under 35 and I need a new set of eyes to review my entire "package" to see if I'm doing things right.  With smart-phones and I-pads, marketing is evolving. The yellow pages aren't even used as doorstops any more.  I just recycle mine.  Just trying to get on the first page of Google is no longer enough.

I'm running out of business cards and before I re-order, I thought that perhaps a "new look" was appropriate.

Where do I look to find a family law attorney in the State of Texas?

Where would I look to find an experienced family law attorney?

I would look on and the State Bar of Texas website. 

There are many, many attorneys sites so you can “google” family law or divorce attorney & your county. 

Two big, well-known paid attorney websites are or
These are essentially the same website - owned by the same major corporation - but you can look at them both. is for the public & Martindale is for attorneys.  

How can I afford an attorney?

Many attorneys offer a free consultation either over the phone or in person.  
Many offer payment plans.  
Most accept credit cards. 

How much should I pay for my family law attorney?  

An attorney charges based on many factors including their location, their current work load, their overhead (such as rent and staff), their years of practice and if they are board certified.  

Board certified attorneys usually have a higher hourly rate.  Some board certified attorneys rates START at $400/hour or more.  If you cannot afford that type of money, then don't waste your time and try to hire one.  Many excellent attorneys are not board certified for a variety of reasons.  Some attorneys don't want to take the test.  

If you are on a limited budget, then you need to look for a newly licensed attorney that is not board certified.

If you want a free (pro bono) attorney, then you are going to have to wait.  You also need a "simple" case.  The pro bono organizations are overwhelmed with requested & have limited funding.  Look on the State Bar of Texas website for organizations throughout the State of Texas.  Houston Volunteer Lawyers (713-2280732) has a waiting list of up to 3 years.  The law schools also have legal clinics but they take cases that take only 2-4 months so that their students can finish a case in one semester.

I just signed up for a new free website to answer questions.

I don't know exactly how this website works but it sounded like it might be interesting.
I like websites that allow people to ask questions to attorneys for free.
I like educating the public even though I no longer litigate.
I try to steer them in the right direction.

I'm often shocked at how uneducated people are regarding Texas family law.
I think 95% of the time I write "You need to meet with an experienced family law attorney in person and discuss the facts of your unique situation." .

Texas family law is so complex that most cases just need a family law attorney.
People that attempt to handle cases without an attorney are just asking for big trouble later on down the road.

For example, a couple owns a house with both parties on the mortgage.  The judge cannot remove either spouse from the mortgage (3rd party creditor).  Years go by.  The parties go on with their lives.  The party in the house quits making the mortgage payments or the party might even die.  The other innocent spouse  has moved & totally forgotten about this marriage.  The "other innocent spouse" tries to buy a house.  This spouse cannot because their credit is ruined because (1) they are on another mortgage  (2) the late payments are showing up on their credit report and (3) there might be a foreclosure showing up on their credit. If the "other innocent spouse" had used an attorney during the marriage at least he/she would have been notified of all these potential problems that could have occurred years down the road.  Personally, I don't understand why a couple that could not be married would want to still co-own a house together.  I just don't get it.  I can see the writing on the wall & it's never pretty.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fabulous hair dresser

I highly recommend BLAZE SAENZ

Her new location is 3400 Bissonnet #155
Houston, Texas 77005

it is on Bissonnet between Cleburne's Cafeteria & Channel 13 (Buffalo Speedway).

Her phone number is 281-827-1243

I met her when she worked at South Texas College of Law in the Registrar's office.
I was one of her first clients because she cut law school student's hair at a discount.
I've been with her over 25 years.
She also cuts my daughter's hair when she's in town.
She has a huge following that follows her to wherever she moves.
Blake can make my thin, lifeless hair perky!

She rides a motorcycle & has tats!

Great Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

If you need a CPA (accountant) call

Alan Charles Weiner (Chuck)
at 6200 Savoy Drive, Suite 530\Houston, TX 77036


I have used him for over 35 years and I highly recommend him.

His rates are extremely reasonable.
People that I've referred to him are amazed how low his rates are from their old providers.
He is prompt.
He reviews the entire situation & thinks of ways to help you.

His office manager is Amy.

He does work for up to 3 generations - so he must keep people happy.
He will do work for individuals & companies.


I believe that you can find these filing fees on the Harris County District Clerk's website.

These are an estimate only.

You pay by cash or credit card.  No personal checks accepted.

Filing Fee for waiver divorce with no children and no service - $235

Filing fee, waiver divorce with children and no service - $262

Filing fee, divorce or annulment, no children - $233

Filing fee, divorce with children - $260

Adult adoption - $217

Adoption of a minor child - $250

Custody case - $232

Enforcement of a foreign judgment or decree - $25

Gestational agreement - $232

Habeas new suit - $217

Name change for an adult or a minor - $217

Paternity case - $217

Protective Order application fee - $16

Removal of Disability of a Minor - $217

Suit Affecting the Parent Child Relationship - $232

Support Termination Suit - $217

Transfer of venue to Harris County - $45

Motion to Enforce an Order without Children - $16

Motion to Enforce an Order with Children - $31

Motion to Modify a Decree without Children - $16

Motion to Modify a Decree with Children - $31

Motion to Transfer Venue Out of Harris County - $16

Subpoena - $8

Writ of garnishment - $8

Citation, precept other writ or process, writ of attachment - $8

Jury fee - $30

Writ of Withholding earnings for Child Support - $15

Contempt $31

Counterclaim or Intervention - $36

Certified copy fee - per page - $1

Non-certified copy fee - per page - $1

Name Change Application and Certificate - $10

Searching file or records to ascertain the existence of an instrument or record in the District Clerk's Office - $5

Searching files or records to locate a cause when docket number is not provided - $5

Harris County Civil Process Service Fees -
For service within Harris County only
(these are just a few of the many services listed & fees vary from $2 per page to $400)
These are done by Harris County Constables or you can hire a private process server
Chid Custody Warrant - $100
Civil Capias - $75
Citation - $70
Deposition Subpoena - $70
Habeas Corpus - $75
Publication of Citation - $70
Restraining Order - $75
Show Cause - $70
Subpoena - $70
Temporary Restraining Order - $75
Expedited Service (added to any other fee) - $65
Fingerprinting - $10
Local Background check $10 plus per $2 per page fee

Why people should hire an attorney before going to the TX A G office

This is a real email I received from a person:

I went to family law court today through TX A G office to set child support and visitation in (name of city deleted).  They gave us joint custody and I didn't know that I could speak up and disagree, so I signed the papers.  I have raised my daughter for 13 years and supported her while he sees her occassionally when he's not in jail.  I have had no help money-wise since she was 3 and I don't think he deserves the same equal rights I have and I regret signing this paperwork.   Is there anything i can do now?

First, the Office of the Texas Attorney General's Office represents the taxpayers of the State of Texas.  They do not represent either party.  Normally their representatives tell you this little known fact as soon as you enter the door but usually so quickly that most people don't hear it.  Their only concern is to collect child support so that the child is not supported by the taxpayers of the State of Texas.  Their job is to get children off all government assistance.  They want parents to fully support their children.  

Also, this office is responsible for collecting reimbursement for any monies that has been spent on this child by the taxpayers such as food stamps, housing, or Medicaid.  If the mother ever signed up for any service (state and/or federal) if she read the fine print, she signed over her rights to the government to collect this money on behalf of the government and the taxpayers. Once a person collected $1 of benefits then that person allows the government to collect money and the person cannot stop the government from going after the other parent for the money owed.  

Second, the paperwork generated by the Office of the Texas Attorney General's office is standardized.  They are not set up for "customized" visitation scheduled.  They do not have the staff or time necessary to "customize" visitation based on the needs of the parents and/or the children.  They need to move their caseload quickly so that the staff can handle the huge caseload that they handle on a daily basis.

Third, the staff speaks quickly and I often find that they don't have the time to fully explain the legal implications of what these legal documents mean.  Most people do not fully understand what they are signing.  I have seen people gently pressured into signing paperwork that they don't want to sign. I've seen men agree to pay monthly child support that exceeded their monthly take-home pay - it was totally unrealistic and was only setting these men up for jail and a huge debt that they could never pay.  

Lastly, please find the money to hire an attorney to represent you before you set foot in the door of the Office of the Texas Attorney General's office.  You will be treated much better and your case will be handled first.  If you hire an attorney, the staff will move your file to the top of the stack!  You won't have to spend the entire day waiting to be seen.  That reason alone, is reason enough to hire an attorney.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Top 10 Divorce Questions

Top 10 divorce questions:
1. How long does it take to get a divorce?
Texas requires that the petition have been filed at least 60 days prior to the divorce being granted.  Therefore, the divorce can be granted on the 61st day.  
2. Do I need a “legal separation” from my spouse?
Texas does not recognize the legal status known as “legal separation.”  
In Texas you are either married or divorced. 
In Texas the parties are married until the day the divorce is granted.

Your divorce is technically not final until 30 days after the Judge signs the Final Decree of Divorce. You are supposed to wait 30 days after your divorce to re-marry in the State of Texas.  
3. Where can I file for divorce?
You or your spouse must have resided in the county of filing for at least 90 days prior to filing and in the State of Texas for at least 6 months.

So if you move from Galveston County to Harris County you might have to wait for 90 days to file your divorce.

If you left Louisiana with the intent never to return and moved to Texas, then you need to wait 6 months to file for divorce in Texas.  
4. How is property divided between spouses in a divorce?
Usually the property division is 50/50.  But no court is going to take a chainsaw and cut the automobile and the couch in half! 
Technically the Texas Family Code says that the Judge is required to divide the community property “in a manner that the Court deems just and right.” This means the Court is not required to split the property equally. A number of factors can be factored into determining what is “just and right,” such as fault in the divorce, disparity in earning power, disparity in amount of separate property, etc.
5. What is the difference between separate and community property?
There are three types. First, certain types of personal injury recoveries are separate property, but this is quite rare. Second, gifts and inheritances are separate property. Finally, property that was owned by a spouse prior to marriage is that parties separate property.

6. How is child support calculated?

Child support in Texas is based on a person's "net resources".  Net resources is not just income.  It includes all sources of income - rental income, side jobs, interest earned, money regularly received from friends and family, gambling earnings, etc.  Tax returns are used to determine a person's net resources.  

A person's pay stub is used to determine their child support too.  A person's gross monthly income is used.  That amount is then reduced by allowing for certain deductions -- such as federal income taxes.  Certain deductions - 401k contributions are not considered when calculating child support.  Child support is calculated using a formula fro the Texas Family Code.  The percentage paid is 20% for the first child then 5% for each additional child - unless there are other minor children not before the court that the person can prove that he is already paying child support on - then the person would receive a small reduction in the percentage.  (A person would not receive a reduction for step-children that live in the household.) 

In calculating child support, it is irrelevant what the other parent earns.  Therefore, the other parent could be a multi-millionaire or could be re-married to a multi-millionaire and it is irrelevant.  

Lastly, the parent paying child support could re-marry a multi-millionaire and it is irrelevant since that person is not responsible for paying child support for their step-children.  

7. What is “standard” visitation?
In the vast majority of Texas divorces involving children both parents are named as Joint Managing Conservators (often referred to a JMC) with a shared division of parental rights.  In the State of Texas, JMC is presumed.  In order to be named Sole Managing Conservator, you must show the Judge that there is a reason that both parents should not be named JMC.  This can be a difficult burden to overcome.

One of these parents will in effect be primary, that is the parent whom the children live with more of the time, typically the same parent who receives child support.  Most commonly the other parent will have visitation and pay child support.  The children also need to be covered on health insurance.  Uninsured medical expenses are normally shared by the parents.

The visitation schedule most often used is the Standard Possession Order (often referred to as a SPO) visitation, which is directly from the Texas Family Code.   Texas Family Code spells out the details of Standard Possession Order visitation in minute detail,   A summary of a typical visitation schedule based on the statute is as follows: the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Friday of every month from Friday (beginning at either school dismissal or 6:00 p.m.) until the following Sunday at 6:00 p.m., every Thursday beginning at either school dismissal or 6:00 p.m. and ending either at 8:00 p.m. that night or when school resumes the following morning), as well as 30 days in the Summer, and additional visitation periods for Spring Break, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, depending on whether it an odd or even numbered year. This is a very common schedule, but it may not be suitable depending on the circumstances of the  case.

Generally, visitation for children under the age of 3 years old is not over-night.  And, if the parents live more than 100 miles away from each other then the visitation will be different because the Thursday night visits are not reasonable so the Texas Legislature has added more time in the summer to compensate for missing Thursday nights.

I like mediation because it allows the parties more flexibility in determining their visitation schedules.  Often the visitation schedule set out in the Texas Family Code will not work for the families that I  work with.  At mediation we are able to work together to create a schedule that works better for the parents and the children.  If a Mediated Settlement Agreement (also called a MSA) then the Judge has to follow the agreement that the couple reached during mediation.  
8. What are temporary orders?
Temporary orders are entered after an agreement between the parties or after a hearing in front of the court. Some courts will order the parties to mediation before holding a temporary order hearing.  The purpose of temporary orders is to govern important issues that need to be addressed while the divorce is waiting to be finalized.  Practitioners often call them “band aid” orders because they are designed to hold things together until a final order can be reached. They most frequently involve issues such like custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, exclusive use of property, including the marital residence, and, sometimes, even interim attorneys fees.
9. If both spouses are in agreement on the divorce, how do we finalize the divorce?
Often both parties want a divorce but frequently they cannot agree on the specific terms in the final paperwork.  For example, if the couple owns a house and both parties are on the mortgage, the party leaving the house probably does not want to remain liable on the mortgage for the length of the loan.  A judge cannot move a person's name from a mortgage - only a mortgage company can voluntarily remove a person's name from future liability on a mortgage.  Remaining liable on this mortgage will probably make both parties unable to buy another home in the future.  And, you cannot force a mortgage company to re-fiance the property if the other party has bad credit.

Be aware that one attorney cannot represent both parties in the State of Texas.  It is unethical for an attorney to do so.  The State Bar of Texas has advised family law attorneys not to attempt to represent both parties in family law cases.

Divorces involve a lot of potential issues such as child custody or support, property division, spousal support, and many others. If all the relevant issues have been agreed to finalizing the divorce can be a relatively straightforward legal procedure. An Agreed Decree of Divorce, along with any other necessary transfer documents, will need to be prepared and executed by both parties.  After all necessary papers are signed by the parties and attorneys one of the party’s and their attorney will go to court to do a prove up hearing to have the court grant the divorce.

Please hire an attorney to do your paperwork.  I've seen so many pro se litigants (people without attorneys) create disasters for themselves that then cost themselves thousands of dollars to fix the mess that they have created - usually regarding retirement plans & real estate.  If you have a retirement plan or real estate, please, please, please hire an attorney -- you truly cannot afford not to hire an attorney.  

Please don't buy a legal kit off the internet, off the television or radio.  Please listen to them carefully - these kits are sold by people outside of the State of Texas -- they were not designed by Texas attorneys!! The ones that I've seen are junk! And good luck getting your money back -- the guarantee is good for 60 days -- but a divorce it Texas takes a minimum of 61 days!!  Also, all clerks are required to accept any paperwork handed to them - but a clerk at a courthouse is not an attorney.  These clerks are also required to accept blank paperwork too!  (Even if you ask their opinion, they can't give you an opinion because they are not allowed to practice law without a license in the State of Texas since it is a felony.)
10. Do I have to show fault to get a divorce?
Since Texas is a no-fault divorce state it is unnecessary to show fault in order to obtain a divorce.

In order to finalize a divorce, one spouse must testify under oath in front of a judge that there has been martial discord and is no reasonable chance of reconciliation - this is the "no fault" language used in the State of Texas.

However, many fault issues (adultery, cruelty, etc.) are frequently relevant factors in divorce cases because they can have an impact on how the community property is divided.  If there is no property to divide, then it is often irrelevant to plead fault issues.

Website for scams to be aware of!

I found this website & it covers all sorts of scams that people fall for - fake cashier's checks, phishing, lottery winners, etc.

Check it out!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Questions You Must Answer for Several Areas of Family Law Cases

For a divorce:
  • Most important -- Have you done everything you can to save your marriage and avoid a contested divorce? 
  • Have you attempted to reconcile your differences and make your relationship work with your spouse or significant other?
  • If children are involved, have you tried to work things out for the benefit of your chidren?
  • How long have you lived in Texas? Has it been over 6 months? How long have you lived in the county that you currently live in? Has it been over 90 days?
  • Since the date you married, have any children been born or adopted? (This includes any children fathered by a man NOT your husband). If there are children by another man, is he willing to be declared in court to be the legal father of these children?
  • Were any children born BEFORE you married your current spouse that are your spouse’s children? If so, what have you done to establish paternity?
  • Date of marriage, location of marriage and date of separation?
  • Has the Office of the Texas Attorney General established paternity, visitation, and child support? If so, when? Do you have a certified copy of this document? If not, you need to order one.
  • Is DNA testing going to be necessary in your case?
  • Is this case going to be agreed to or contested?
  • Do you know how to locate your spouse in order to have the person served with legal paperwork?
  • If you do not know where your spouse is located, do you have your spouse's Social Security number and date of birth?  Do you know where your spouse's parent(s) live?
  • Please include how many minor children are involved in your legal case, their ages and where they are currently living and with whom?
  • Have you been served with legal paperwork? If so, who is the opposing attorney and what Court have you been assigned to for this case?
  • Is there a hearing scheduled? Has the Court assigned a trial date yet?
  • Is there an outstanding protective order involved in this case? Or, has there been any violence or threats of violence in the marriage in the last 2 years? Do you truly believe that you are in danger?
  • List briefly all debts (including any Internal Revenue Service debts) and assets involved in this case. Are you currently involved in a bankruptcy?
  • Are the minor children covered on health insurance? If not, one of the parents will need to obtain it.
  • Is there anything thing else that I need to know in order to quote you a deposit amount and monthly payment plan?

For a common law marriage in the State of Texas:
In addition to the above questions –
  • Did you register your marriage with a county clerk in the State of Texas?
  • Did you list each other as “spouse”? If so, what written proof do you have? (Such as -- insurance, a lease, automobile purchase, real estate documents, contracts, credit cards, wills, tax returns, etc.)
  • Is either of you currently married to anyone else?
  • Did you file your income tax returns as married?
  • What paperwork do you have to show that you listed each other as husband & wife?
  • Do you have any witnesses willing to come to court to testify that you are common law married?
  • If you are currently separated, how long have you been living apart from each other?
  • How old are you and your spouse?

For an annulment in the State of Texas:
  • How old are both of you? How long have you been married?
  • Were you under the influence of alcohol or narcotics when you married? Did you immediately leave when you sobered up?
  • Is either party impotent?
  • Were you induced into marriage by fraud, duress or force?
  • Do either of you lack mental capacity to consent to marriage?
  • Is your spouse still married to someone else?

For paternity or parents not married to one another:
  • Most important -- Have you done everything you can to save your relationship and avoid a contested litigation?
  • How long have you lived in Texas? Has it been over 6 months?
  • How long have you lived in the county that you currently live in? Has it been over 90 days?
  • Has the Office of the Texas Attorney General established paternity, visitation, and child support? If so, when? Do you have a certified copy of this document? If not, you need to order one.
  • If you never were married, are both parents listed on the birth certificate?
  • Have you done DNA testing?
  • Is this case going to be agreeable or contested?
  • Do you know how to locate the other parent in order to have the person served with legal paperwork?
  • Please include how many minor children are involved in your legal case, their ages, where they are currently living and with whom?
  • Have you been served with legal paperwork? If so, who is the opposing attorney and what Court have you been assigned to for this case?
  • Is there a hearing scheduled? Has the Court assigned a trial date yet?
  • Is there an outstanding protective order involved in this case? Or, has there been any violence or threats of violence in the last 2 years? Do you truly feel threatened?
  • Are the minor children covered on health insurance? If not, one of the parents will need to obtain it.
  • Is there anything thing else that I need to know to assist you in this legal mater?   

To change custody:
  • You will need a certified copy of the current legal document regarding all minor children involved in this litigation.
  • Why should custody be modified now? I need specific examples.
  • How old are the children?
  • Will the children sign a statement that they want to live with you?
  • Do you have witnesses willing to come to court to testify on your behalf?
  • What written proof do you have that can be presented into evidence in Court?
  • Are the children willing to be interviewed in chambers by the Judge alone?
  • If I interview the children alone, what reasons will they give me for wanting to chance custody?  How long have they felt this way?  What concrete examples will they give me?  

To modify child support:
  • You will need a certified copy of the current legal document regarding all minor children involved in this litigation.
  • How long has it been since this case was last modified?
  • Where do the parties now live? Does anyone still live in the county where the case was last heard?
  • Why do you want to modify child support now?
  • What evidence do you have to modify child support now?
  • Child Support includes all Net Resources of the non-custodial parent.  Does the non-custodial parent have any other sources of income - rental income, investments, interest earned, etc. 
  • The non-custodial parent will need to bring 2-3 years of tax returns for review.
  • The custodial parent's income is irrelevant in determining child support.
  • As additional child support, normally the non-custodial parent also pays for the children's health insurance premiums as additional child support.  However, there is a maximum amount applied to this monthly premium.  (Uninsured medical is normally split 50/50).  Medical covers dental, eye, etc. for the minor children.  

For grandparents, aunt/uncle, siblings over 18 years or a non-relative:
  • Have you had actual care, control and possession of the child for at least 6 months ending not more than 90 days ago?
  • What evidence do you have that the child’s present circumstances would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development?
  • Will both parents, the surviving parent, or the managing conservator or custodian consent to the filing of this lawsuit?
  • What evidence do you have of substantial past contact with the child?
  • Have both parents had their parental rights terminated?
  • Is your grown child been (a) in jail or prison for at least the last 3 months, (b) is deceased or (c) has been found by a court to be incompetent?

For a minor to be declared an adult in the State of Texas:
  • Are you a resident of the State of Texas? How long have you lived in Texas? What county do you live in and how long?
  • How old are you?
  • Are you employed? Can you support yourself? Are you managing your own financial affairs without your parents, managing conservator or guardian helping you?
  • Are you currently living separate and apart from either of your parents, managing conservator or guardian?
  • What do you hope to accomplish by being named an adult in the State of Texas?
  • Judges to not like these type of lawsuits.  What sort of evidence do you have to convince a judge that this lawsuit should be granted?
  • You need to show that you are completely financially independent - do you have at least $5,000 in a bank account?
  • Do you realize that even if you are legally an adult, that no apartment complex has to legally rent to you and no employer has to hire you? 
  • In the State of Texas, this is normally referred to a "Removal of Disabilities" and not Emancipation.  

For property division:
  • What property did you and your spouse own before your marriage?
  • What property have you received since marriage by gift, inheritance or recovery for personal injuries?
  • What debts did you and your spouse have before marriage?
  • What debts have you incurred since marriage?
  • Have either of you started a business since marriage?
  • What proof do you have regarding all assets and liabilities – both separate and community property?
  • Have you re-financed your home since marriage?  Is your spouse listed on the title as a co-owner?  You need to bring in copies of all legal paperwork.  
  • Do you have a retirement plan or pension plan?
  • Do you have any life insurance policies - whole or term?
  • Do you have any assets located outside of the United States?

For an adult name change:
  • How long have you lived in Texas? Have you lived in the same county at least 90 days?
  • Why do you want a name change?
  • Are you willing to be finger printed by the Department of Public Safety?
  • Do you have a criminal history?
  • Are you attempting to evade any creditors?
  • Have you ever been arrested - even as a juvenile?

General questions for most cases involving children:
  • What is the worst thing that will be alleged by the opposing party?
  • Is it true?
  • What is the worst thing you can allege about the opposing party?
  • Is it true?
  • Can the opposing party pass a drug test – hair and urine?
  • Can you pass a drug test – hair and urine?
  • Have there been any police reports filed? If so, how many and when?
  • Who is the most stable parent? I need specific details.
  • Why should you have custody? Again, I need specifics.
  • Why should the opposing party not have custody? Again, I need specifics.
  • What proof (written evidence, witnesses, photos, recordings, emails, etc.) do you have to present into evidence in Court?
  • If there are allegations of physical and/or mental abuse, what evidence do you have? Do you have witnesses willing to come to court to testify on your behalf?
  • If there are allegations of child abuse, what evidence do you have?
  • If there are allegations of parental alienation, what evidence do you have?

General questions:
  • How much do you earn each month? How much does the opposing party earn each month?
  • What is your job title? What is opposing party’s job title?
  • How long have you been at your job? How long has the opposing party been at his/her job?
  • What benefits do you have through your job and/or opposing party’s employment?
  • Are you covered by health insurance? How much are the premiums?
    If you don’t have the children insured right now, can you add them to your health insurance policy?
  • Do you receive bonuses, incentives, perks, etc. on a regular basis?
  • Do you have a 401(K) or IRA?
  • If you had to liquidate all of your assets, how much money would you receive? What about opposing party’s assets?
  • How much debt are you personally obligated to repay? What about opposing party’s debts?
  • What is your highest level of education? Opposing party?
  • We need the following information for each person (including children):
    • Full legal name
    • Date of birth
    • Social Security Number
    • Place of birth
    • Texas driver's license number
    • Address
    • Phone numbers
  • What makes your case unique?

2 FREEwebsites to post free legal questions for the public

There are 2 free sites to post legal questions --


I also recommend them for finding an attorney since you can read attorney posts & get an idea if the attorney will be a good fit for you.

Obviously since these attorneys post answers for free they care about educating the general public.    They take the time to answer questions for free so they are not motivated only to make money.  I find that most of the attorneys that answer free questions are a friendly and cooperative bunch - I've gotten to "know" a few because we'll email each occasionally.

On you can read client reviews and fellow attorney reviews on each attorney listed.  I was one of the first attorneys to "claim" my listing when they first came on-line many years ago.  I attempt to keep my listing up-to-date each year.  I will add that just because an attorney's rating is not high that is not a reason not to hire them - some excellent attorneys are not highly rated because they either have not "claimed" their listing or they have not maintained their listing. was around years before but blew away with aggressive advertising.

Free Family Law Website for Texas Residents

Go to for assistance if you are doing a divorce or need other assistance in a civil matter in the State of Texas.

Texas Law

I talked to a Harris County Family Court judge 2 days ago and he does NOT like this website because he said the Final Decree of Divorce does NOT properly divide real estate! 

So, if you own real estate -- BEWARE!  It will not give you proper title to the property so you will have trouble selling the real estate in the future since no title company will issue you a title policy if this is the only piece of paper you have giving you ownership of the real estate.  In other words, if you try to use this Final Decree of Divorce from the above-listed website as proof that you own a piece of real estate at a later date, you have a worthless piece of paper! 


But if you have no kids, no property...this website might work for you.

You will need to submit a BVS form to the Court for all divorces in Harris County. 
This form is sent to Austin to be filed -- it is entered into a central computer system available to people to "track" to see if you are divorced.  Before Texas started the BVS (Bureau of Vital Statistics Form tracking system, several years ago, attorneys had to call each county clerk's office to see if a person was divorced in that county.  Now an attorney can just contact Austin and find out if a divorced has been filed -- quick and easy!

Harris County Texas Family Law Free Phone Numbers

Attorney General Office

Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse

Lone Star Legal Aid

Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program

University of Houston
Legal Aid Clinic

South Texas College of Law
Randy Sorrells Legal Aid Clinic

Free Legal Advice
Houston Bar Association
Free Legal Line - first & third Wednesday each month for 5pm - 9 pm

Texas Father's for Equal Rights

Women's Legal Hotline

Crisis Hotline

District Attorney for Harris County

Houston Area Women's Center

SAFE Program
Court Ordered Supervised Visits with Minor Children

Harris County Child Protective Services
To report abuse and/or neglect of minor children

This is not an exclusive list
Look on-line for more agencies

You can always call the "United Way" for more agencies

Crisis Hotline or Houston Area Women's Center might have other referrals if
they are unable to assist you - remember - never give up - keep calling if
you need assistance of any kind - funding changes each year because
grant money moves - so no list is ever accurate for more than a year --
if you need help -- you have to call around to find the help YOU NEED! - old blog

My old blog

is for entertainment purposes only & may contain out-of-date information on it!

Old blog can be exists for reading purposes only!

My old blog - which I used for years is still on-line but I have not been able to "post" to it since November, 2012.  In fact, I've had trouble with it for most of 2012.  After numerous attempts to fix the problem, I determined it was just easier to start from scratch.

Please read the dates of my posts -- many were written several years ago & Texas laws do change every time the Texas legislature meets so my post might not be 100% accurate!  Therefore, please consult with a licensed Texas attorney & please do not rely on any information on any of my blog entries.

These blog posts were done for informational & for entertainment purposes only -- I am not giving anyone legal advice so don't rely on anything you read.  They are worth what you paid -- nothing!

So you can read my old blog entries but from now on new posts will be on this new blog that reflects my practice now - a 100% mediation practice only.

I no longer choose to litigate these days.

Where does My Child Support Go?

I'm often asked can I ask for receipts for where my child support is spent?

The Judges in Harris County will not order the parent that receives child support to show that pays child support to produce receipts.

I was asked this question so many times that I discussed this matter with a judge many years ago in his chambers.  Judge have told me that child support is used for:

Rent and/or mortgage (the "roof over the child's head")
Gasoline for the vehicle they are driven in
Clothes & under garments
Food & food at restaurants
Utilities (air-conditioning/heat, water, cable, phone & internet)
Children's school supplies
Soap & shampoo
Birthday parties

So if your child(ren) are eating, have clothes on their back, attending school and have a place to live then that is where your child support is going.

During the summer when you have the children for your month long visit, the parent with primary custody, still has to pay for utilities and rent in the place where the children live, so therefore your child support continues for 12 months of the year.

Also, many non-custodial parents do not take their child for the full 30 days, and the Texas Legislature voted not to cancel the child support for one 30 day period.  So if you have an issue with paying child support during the 30 day period in the summer, you need to take this matter up with the Texas Legislature and not your spouse or the judge that ordered it.  It is policy of the State of Texas to order child support for 12 months of the year.

Many non-custodial custodial parents are upset that the other parent spends money on nails, booze, partying, fancy automobile, cell phone, cruises, gambling, etc.  The problem is that is the children are eating and if they have clothes on their backs (even if are "ill fit") the children are not starving or naked,, they are receiving adequate care even though it might not be the level of care that you think that they should be receiving.

If there is a serious problem that rises to the level of an emergency, then under Texas law the school teachers or medical service providers are required to notify CPS of any neglect or abuse and the children will be removed from their current home.

Also Texas law provides that on an annual basis, you can come to court and ask the Judge to review the custody arrangement.  The burden of proof is on you to show the Judge that the children should be removed from their current home and their lives disrupted.  This burden of proof is difficult to prove and often expensive.

Go to my new & improved website!

Updated Website is Up & Running!

My new website is up & running!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

10 Thoughts about Divorce & Separation

#1: You are Hurt, Angry & You Want to Hurt Your Spouse

When someone hurts you, you have an almost instinctive urge to hurt them back.  But that is usually that a smart thing to do in the long run.  It can come back to haunt you at the courthouse.  In the State of Texas, if one spouse no longer wants to be married, then the Judge is eventually going to grant a divorce.  No one can force a person to remain married to someone that they no longer want to be married to any longer.

The Judges no longer require the spouses to attend marriage counseling because they have learned after many years that a spouse that does not want to be married will not cooperate in marriage counseling.  Therefore, marriage counseling is a waste of time and money.

If you are feeling out of control, then please seek professional help.  If you need medication, it is certainly ok as long as you do not abuse it.  I encourage you to seek therapy.  You are going through the death of your marriage and you need assistance in coping with this major change in your life.  You certainly never thought that you would be going through this on the day you married.

Please do not destroy anything.  Judges to not like people that destroy property.  I don't care what he/she has done, there is no reason to destroy property.  I don't care of he/she has had an affair, spent all the money, given you an STD, put a gun to your head, beat you up, drugged you, done drugs, shot the dog, hit the kids, wrecked the car, said your mama was a whore, slept with your best friend, raped you, kicked you out of the trailer, sold your jewelry, cost you your job, lost his job, or whatever - the Judge has heard all of that and much worst.

The State of Texas eliminated the law where you could sue the paramour many years ago. You cannot sue the person your spouse had an affair with for monetary damages or for any purposes.  There is no law on the books.  You can read about it in the Texas Family Code which is available on-line for free.

#2: Thinking that There is a "Winner" in a Divorce

There are no "winners" in a divorce - except the attorneys because they are going to get paid when the two of you fight.  The attorneys get to bill for their time so the more the two of you fight the more money the attorneys make.

I knew of a couple that fought over their 40 year old pots and pans that no one would have paid $1 for at a garage sale.  I'm sure their attorneys billed thousands of dollars for their time.  The wife knew the husband could only cook his breakfast eggs in this one pan & she refused to give it to him.  They could have both  purchased  several sets of of pot & pans at Neiman Marcus for what they spent on attorneys fees!

If you are angry, seek out a counselor to work out your anger.

Go a a spa and get a great massage.

Go the golf course and hit some golf balls or Go Bowling.

Join a gym and work out your stress and anger.  Get into the best physical shape of your life.

B R E A T H E !
In order to think properly, your brain must have oxygen.  I often have people come into my office that sound like they have just run a marathon.  The first thing I say is sit down and take a deep breath.  Relax.  Have some water.  Calm down.  Now let's chat.  Once I see their shoulders relax and their breathing slow down then we can begin to talk.  Their brain needs fuel to think clearly.
When their brain has no oxygen then they are in panic mode like a scared animal.  Remember, to take 10 deep long breaths.

Every divorce attorney I know has a funny story about how they settled a case.  I settled case once over a turtle.  The wife had to have one more thing & the children's turtle closed the deal.  Or, I mediated a case and the wife wanted her husband to know how much she was suffering so she insisted on taking his favorite antique piggy-bank in order to settle the case.  She knew that he could never find another one like it again.  She hated it but she knew how much he loved that ugly bank.

#3: Talking to Everyone & Listening to everyone

You hurt. You are in pain. You want to share.  You want a shoulder to cry on.  Pick one person to share your feelings with and that is all.  I usually recommend that it be a licensed therapist.  If you cannot afford one, then pick one person.  If it's your best friend and you reconcile with your spouse later, realize that your friend will never forgive your spouse and you will probably lose your best friend.

Your family and your friends want what is best for you.  But you need to hire a lawyer and trust that lawyer.  Did your friends go to law school? No.  They do not know the law.  If you are divorced, they probably divorced years ago.  Laws change.  The facts in YOUR case are unique.  If you don't trust your attorney - then get a new one.  Don't undermine your attorney by calling other attorneys for their opinion. Other attorneys don't know the facts of YOUR case.

#4: Not Consulting with a Family (Divorce) Attorney

I often meet people who are afraid to talk to an attorney and find out their legal rights because they don't want to upset the other party.  Knowledge is power.  I find that most people are so relieved after a consultation with a family law attorney.  Then they are aware of their rights and the things that they need to be doing before considering divorce.  Often after meeting with a potential client, I scared them so badly that they went home and attempted to reconcile with their spouse because they realized that divorce was not a the magic pill that they envisioned and hoped for.

I'm an attorney and I always consult an attorney when I have a question about an area of the law that I'm unfamiliar with.  I graduated from law school in 1990 and many laws in Texas has changed quite a bit since I graduated.  The Texas Legislature meets every 2 years & makes changes each time they meet.  There is no way for an attorney to keep up in all areas of Texas laws.  If you asked me about business litigation, I am not current in that area of the law - I know the basics, but I would not advertise myself as a business lawyer.

#5: Not Thinking Smart about Finances and the Future

I've had people come into my office that have not clearly thought out their future. Unfortunately, divorce is often difficult for the entire family.  The household income is going to be split and expenses are going to be higher because there will now be two rents, two utility bills to pay etc.

I had a phone call from a man who was driving his father-in-law's vehicle.  He got angry and sold the engine then sold the body for scrap.  I suggested that he immediately call a criminal lawyer because he had destroyed another person's property.  He had thought that he would get back at his wife and her father but instead he had created serious legal problems for himself by destroying the vehicle.  It never occurred to him that he was doing anything wrong -- he was laughing when he called me -- he was not laughing when he hung up the phone!

In the State of Texas, both parents are expected to support the children.  Child support is based on the income of the non-custodial parent.  It is irrelevant what the custodial parent's income is when calculating the child support.  Plus, normally the non-custodial parent also pays for the children's health insurance and 50% of uninsured medical expenses (this includes dental, eyes, prescriptions.) This ends up being quite a hunk of money of the non-custodial parent's income.

If the couple owns a home and both names are on the mortgage, only the mortgage company can remove a name from the mortgage.  A judge cannot interfere with a 3rd party creditor. This will impact both parties in the future from purchasing another home.  Most people don't realize this until they try to purchase a home a few years later and things get ugly.  I don't understand why people who cannot stay married would want to own a home together.  It normally is not a good idea.  If the party that keeps the house in the divorce does not pay the mortgage, then the other party's credit is ruined.

In Texas, child support ends when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school - whichever is later.  Unless, the child is disabled.  If the chid is permanently disabled, the parent must apply for permanent child support before the child reaches 18.  I'm amazed that people forget to inquire into permanent child support before their child turn 18!  Basically, paying for college is a voluntary act in Texas.

Often when I sit down with people and start helping them plan their budgets, we quickly determine that there is no way for them to survive.  The reality of divorce is usually shocking to both parties.  Sometimes a divorce should go slowly in order to allow the couple to adjust to the many changes occurring in their lives.

Unfortunately, many times the children's lifestyles are impacted by the divorce and the lack of money.  It takes a lot more money to run 2 households.

I urge people to not make any financial commitments until they know what the future holds.  Rushing into making decisions such as signing leases or purchasing real estate is often a bad idea.  Take your time and let things settle down.  See where you are financially and emotionally in 6 months to a year after your divorce is final - you might be in a very different place.

#6: Considering Divorce as the End of Your Life

This is the end of your marriage.  It is the end of a chapter of your life.
It is the beginning of a new chapter of your life.
You will survive this event.
A friend of mine said "living well is the best revenge".
Some days are a struggle -- ok, some days really suck!
But, it will get better.
And, eventually, if you work hard, you will get better.
Yes, it is really, really, really hard work.
And, at the end of two years you will look back and you will be a different person.
Hopefully, a better person.
If you have children, you need to be a better person for them.
If you don't have children, then you need to be a better person for yourself.

I once asked a wise friend why change was so hard and she said it was because we don't change until things become so unbearable that we can't take it any longer and then we finally have no choice but to change.

I once had a client that cried every time I saw her.  She was so depressed. She wore no make-up and looked ragged.  She always looked at the floor.  Her husband had really worn her down.  She was so sad.  I kept telling her that things would get better.  I told her to think of her kids and make her life better for them.

One day, approximately 6 months later,  I walked into my office and there was this beautiful woman talking to my receptionist.  I said "hi" and walked my desk.  She followed me into my office and said "Fran, I can't believe you walked by me without talking to me -- It's me xxxxxx".
I literally screamed -- I had not recognized her.
I said "What did you do? You are not the same person. Have you had plastic surgery?"
She said, "No, I'm happy. I got a job, a boy friend and life is wonderful."
I said, "You look marvelous and I will tell your story to everyone I divorce from now on that there is life after divorce."
She truly was not the same woman that I had divorced-- she walked differently, she had a different air about her, she was truly a different woman - confident, alive & truly beautiful.

# 7: Don't Involve your Children

Your child is 50% of you and 50% of your spouse.  So when you criticize your spouse, you are criticizing your child.  I'm amazed that parents do not grasp this concept.

Do not bad mouth your spouse or allow anyone else to do it in front of your child or any where your child can hear it.  This includes rolling your eyes, sighing or any other outward expressions of disapproval.

Don't physically fight over your children - I once had a mother grab a small baby's head and upper body and the father grabbed her legs and they pulled.  The baby was lucky to not be permanently injured.  They were mad at each other and both grabbed the baby.  They were young and not thinking clearly.  They could have killed their baby.

There is a concept called parental alienation.  Judges know all about it.  You can read all about it on the internet.  I can assure you that if the judge becomes aware or even senses any sort of parental alienation, that an attorney ad litem will be appointed or the child will be sent to a court selected therapist for evaluation.  This costs lots of money.  And, you get the privilege of paying for at least 50% of it.  If parental alienation can be proven, you might lose custody and/or supervised visitation will be ordered.  Judges take this allegation extremely seriously.  Unfortunately, the parents that usually are involved in parental alienation usually don't believe that what they are doing is parental alienation.  But, more importantly, most children end up severely damaged by this sort of behavior.  I've actually dealt with suicidal children because of their parents messy divorces.  It is something that I hope no family ever has to deal with in their entire lives.  To be involved in a case where an 11 year old boy attempts to kill himself at least 3 times by jumping off the roof of his house because he would rather die than deal with his parents fighting is something that any sane parent should be ashamed of -- I withdrew because my client refused to follow my legal advice.

Do not use your children as messengers.

Don't fight in front of the children - they deserve their childhood!

Don't quiz them about the other parent's home.  Do not use them as spies.

Do not talk to your children about the divorce.  They are children.  You are the adults.  The divorce is "adult business".

There are certain topics that should always be "adult business" and therefore off-limits to the children - even after they grown up and become adults --
parents affairs
parents finances
parents sexual practices
sexual perversions
anything intimate
anything negative about the other parent

My parents divorced when I was in my 30s - it was horrible & I did not want to hear them discuss certain topics.  I was a divorce attorney but I did not want to hear them bad-mouth each other. I was their child and I did not want to want to be involved in their "adult" business. I did not want to hear them air all their anger & dirty laundry.

#8: Co-Parenting Your Children

Your marriage might be ending but you will be co-parenting your children together for the rest of your lives.  In fact, you will be co-grandparenting together.  There are going to be birthdays, graduations, deaths, weddings, etc.   It is so much cheaper if you are able to share birthday parties instead of having 2 of everything.

Remember, children and/or parents get sick so eventually the court order visitation order is just not going to work.  I always tell people - just when you least expect it "life happens" - cars break, your work hours change, someone gets sick, or you have sort of an unexpected problem.  It's nice when the parents can work together in the best interests of their children and make reasonable accommodations to see that their children's needs are met.

Keep each other informed of each other's phone numbers.  If there is an emergency, you want to be notified.  If the other parent does not know how to contact you, then you cannot be called.

There is an old saying "you get more flies with honey than vinegar".  So if you want to get along, use honey and not vinegar.  Bite your tongue, try to get along.  I see people fight over the tiniest things instead of trying to work together for the benefit of their child.

If you need help with the other parent, then try counseling for the entire family.  Perhaps a counselor can get through to the other parent instead of you.  A third party might be able to assist you in helping the other parent understand that what they are doing is not in the child's best interests.  It might be better coming for a third party and not from you.  If money is a problem, there are some sliding fee scale agencies available based on your income.

Just because the other parent has different rules does not make them wrong.  Children can adjust to 2 different set of rules.  Children are very adaptable.  Unless the other household is doing something dangerous, hazardous or illegal - stay out of their way.

Especially as children reach puberty, parents need to work together to keep their children out of trouble.  Children need to be kept active and busy.  Extra-curricular activities such as sports are important for children to burn off excess energy and for fitness.

As parents, it's not always easy to be constantly vigilant of our children’s well being
and to protect them, especially when going through such a trying and turbulent
time. Of course this does not mean that we need to lie to our children and make up
false situations.

Some children tend to blame themselves for the divorce of their parents. They think their misbehavior caused problems between their parents and that is why they are getting divorced. You need to reassure them that:
• This has nothing to do with them
• That as parents, you can no longer stay together due to adult problems between yourselves
• That their mother and father will always be their mother and father, and that will never change
• That their parents will never leave them: children may think that if one parent leaves the other, they can leave them as well. It is important to make it clear to them that they will not be left if they misbehave, or if one has a disagreement with them. Children need to be reassured that they are and will always be loved by both parents.

Realize that divorce is not fair.  You will not always get to see your kids when you want.  But if your children are happy and healthy, that is what is really important.  It's tough being a divorced parent and sometimes it deeply hurts.  But you are the adult.  Suck it up.  If the children end up healthy and adjusted, then you did the right thing.  Recognize that neither parent "won" in the divorce when it came to the children.  But the children were the biggest losers - they lost their intact home.  So you need to be the adult & keep the impact minimal on the children.  Sure it is hard not to have them on their birthdays and Christmas, but if they are adjusting to the divorce and they are happy recognize that it is just one day in their life.

#9: Tell Your Children that You Love Them Each & Every Day

Make very day special because you never know how long you have them.  Kiss and hug them every day.  Children grow up so fast - before you know it they are grown! Tell your children that you love them every day.  Never let them leave the house without them hearing you say that you love them.  End each phone conversation with "I love you".   Sometimes you might hate what they do but you still love the child -- tell them so each and every day!

#10: You are Special & the Importance of Prayer in Your Life

And, make sure that you remember to tell yourself that YOU are loved everyday.  Pat yourself on the back for the excellent job that you are doing.  You survived another day.  That is no small feat.  Keep up the good work.  Congratulate yourself.  The longest journey started with one small step. If you stumble, remember to dust yourself off and begin again.  You only fail if you fail to start again - so don't be so hard on yourself. Remember, GOD loves you and GOD does not make any junk - you are special & unique. Take good care of yourself.

Prayer is powerful. It is not important what you pray, but that you do it.  So do it NOW.

A Judge's comments to divorcing parents

Honorable Paul Garfinkle's of South Carolina comments to divorcing parents:

I want to make a few comments to you about how important it is to your family to resolve this case. . . . 

I know that both of you sit here today each of you are convinced of the merit of your own case and the rightness of your own position. However, asking your attorney to convert your convictions and beliefs into evidence that will result in a verdict in your favor is asking for what I believe the most difficult task that a trial attorney can be required to do.

A custody case is much different than any accident case or a criminal trial. In those cases, an attorney is only asked to prove what happened at a specific date and place. All of the events have been fixed and are unchanging. A custody case is much different. You are asking your attorneys not to paint a picture in time but to present a movie. The movie must show over a broad range of time how each of you parent. Then I must decide which of you is the better parent.

Can you imagine if you had to prove that DaVinci’s “Last Supper” was a better painting than Michelangelo’s “Creation,” and say that you had to prove this to someone who had never seen either painting and you weren’t allowed to show the paintings to them? I suppose you could hire the curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art who would come to court and testify about composition, color, depth, character, and proportion. Or I suppose you could bring in some ordinary people to say which one they think is better. Maybe you could take a poll. This is what you are asking your attorneys to do in this case. They have to prove to me which is the better parent, but they have no way of showing me exactly how you parent. They can’t take me to the study sessions so I can see you how a good tutor Dad is. They can’t bring me into your child’s bedroom at 5 a.m. to see how Mom comforts the child who is awakened with a fever. I want you and I want your attorneys to bring up those incidents which show you to be caring and loving parents, and I am sure they will try. However, it is more likely that they will be forced to show the other parent at his or her worse. Neither of these efforts will work very well. In trying to prove the positives you will discover that with the passage of time, the inability of witnesses to describe the situation with the same force with which it occurred, just the difficulty of putting into words other peoples’ thoughts, feelings and actions, all of these combine to make grey what you felt was vivid or blunt . . . what you thought was poignant. On the other hand, the negatives will seem to make you look like the worse parent that ever lived. Did you ever send one of your children to school without [their] lunch? Did you ever forget to give one of your children [their] medicine? Did you ever say about your child “I could have strangled her?” We probably have all done those things, and it will be presented as if you are the most neglectful or abusive parent. At the end of the trial any goodwill each of you had for the other, if there is any, will have been totally destroyed.

It is both of you who must be parents of these children until either you or they die. Neither I nor any of these lawyers . . . will be there for you for the remainder of this long journey. We could try to do our best to get you pointed in the right direction and maybe even help you along, but it is only in the first few steps. In the end it is both of you who must raise these children.

If your children could reach into their hearts and tell you exactly what they think and feel about what is going on here, if they could get beyond the hurt we know they must feel, we all know what they would say. First they would say, “I wish Mom and Dad were back together.” Knowing this will not happen, they would say, “I wish they would just stop fighting.” No doubt they love you so much they are probably blaming themselves for your original breakup. It is time you get past the anger and put aside the hurt. You may even have to forgive. The pain that has been caused here arises from the conflict between each of you and has nothing to do with the children.

Your children want this conflict to end. You have the chance to leave there today with an agreement that is in the best interest of your children. But it is an agreement that you must reach together. You must be willing to put aside your differences and be willing to accommodate each other’s needs. But most importantly you must be ready now to put the needs of your children first.

I know that your children want you to settle this case. You can do the right thing and you can start now. Put aside what has happened in the past. This is the judgment day for your children. It’s not about you. And think about the additional damage you are going to cause to these children. I can tell you right now it has happened and it happens every time. Put aside your own egos and swallow them. Leave it is in this courtroom . . . we’ve had a lot of egos left in this courtroom. You don’t see them but I do because I see parents who are willing to put their children’s welfare above their own ego. And they leave it right here and they know and understand what is really best for the children.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Texas Legislature is in Session

Every other year the Texas Legislature meets -- it's odd years such as 2013 and 2015.

So what does that mean...

The Texas Family Code will be revised again...

Most likely the changes will go into effect on September 1st of each odd year -- but sometimes the legislature picks different start dates.

If you want to make a change to a Texas law then you need to begin working on it in even years...if you wait for the legislature to actually meet you are probably too late to instigate change in that session.  The proposed bills have to be written ahead of time and on the date the legislature meets there is very little time to get a bill passed.  As you know, many of the bills proposed don't make it pass the committee meeting and never actually gets submitted for a full vote.

Illegally obtained evidence in divorce & custody cases

All family and divorce lawyers are seeing a dramatic increase in the role of the Internet (including Face Book posts) and social media play in their cases.  People are communicating via email, connecting on social media, dating sites, using GPS devices, intercepting text messages on smart phones and intercepting communications by their spouse on their computer.  People are also impersonating other people on the Internet.  Now we have appls. that allow people to change their voices -- how do you know who you are truly talking to these days?  Some state legislatures have just begun to pass laws prohibiting impersonating someone else on the Internet.

You need to be aware that there are also federal laws which can be brought into play with the use of the Internet and accessing someone else's computer.  You are violating someone's expectation of privacy.  The laws that were originally passed in the 1960's to cover telephone wiretapping are being expanded now to cover the interception of information in our rapidly expanding technological advancements.  

You might find that your divorce attorney does not want to discuss or even know about any of your potentially illegally obtained "juicy" information.  

As I write this, for the first time, some attorneys are currently being threatened with litigation, for knowing that their former clients may have potentially acted illegally in obtaining this type of evidence.  The attorneys are having to defend themselves in court.  This area of the law is so new that the legal system don't know how the judicial system is going to determine the attorney's liability.  If the client acted on his/her own - is the attorney liable?  Therefore, attorneys are now telling their clients to destroy any potentially illegally obtained evidence since the attorney does not want to be sued or possibly lose their law license for possible ethical violations.  It may take several years before the final decision is determined this I'm sure this matter will be appealed through the judicial system and laws will be revised to accommodate our constantly evolving technology.  

When Do You Need to Consult with An Attorney?

Answer:  The best time to consult with an attorney is when you don’t need one.
Whenever you have concerns about a potential problem, that the time to talk to a lawyer.

Here are a few of the reasons to consult with an attorney:

  1. Get the facts.  Talk to a currently licensed attorney in your state that practices in the area of the law where you have questions.
  2. Get current knowledge.  What was the law 20 years ago, might not be the law today. In fact, what the law was 2 years ago, might not be the law today - the Texas legislature meets every 2 years & laws change! So don't assume that the law is the same as it was a few years ago.  If you have not talked to an attorney in 2 years -- it might be time to sit down with your attorney again!
  3. It reduces stress and is empowering.  Most people are scared and don’t know what to do next.  Being paralyzed and ignoring problems usually makes the situation worst. 
  4. You need to talk to someone that will consider all possible outcomes in your case. Someone that can see the pros and cons of both sides of the case.
  5. It can save you money.  Many people try to do it themselves in an attempt to save money.  For example, probating an estate in Texas is inexpensive and easy if done properly.  If done wrong, it’s a slow, expensive process. 
  6. Most of the form kits or available on the internet are not worth the money – especially the ones that claim they work in all 50 states.  
I practice what I preach.  Whenever I have a legal question, I go to an attorney that practices in that area of the law and pay for an hour of their time.  When I leave their office I know the following:  (a) the current laws and how courts are interpreting them; (b) if there is a time limit for either side to act; (c) if there is anything I can do to protect myself, and (d) strategies in the event litigation becomes necessary.   When I’m personally involved in a lawsuit, I hire an attorney to represent me then I listen to their advice.

The best time to consult with an attorney is BEFORE any life cycle event or possible crisis.  Such as BEFORE:

1.      Opening or closing a business, forming a partnership or corporation
2.      Signing a contract – such as an apartment lease, promissory note, car loan, employment contract, leasing equipment, etc.
3.      Contemplating marriage, separation or having a child (including adoption)
4.      Buying or selling a major asset  - such as real estate
5.      Having any surgical procedure – to make sure that your wishes are carried out in case you are unable to speak for yourself (such as being in a coma) & making sure your family will be ok
6.      Considering retirement
7.      Helping your aging parents – before they are mentally incompetent or need to move into a nursing home
8.      Considering pleading guilty (or no contest) to a traffic ticket, criminal charge or you are a possible suspect in a criminal investigation
9.      Conflicts with neighbors, relatives, friends, employers get out of control.

What sort of attorney do I need?

  1. An attorney that practices primarily in your area of concern.  For example, if you have a divorce case in Texas, don’t call a corporate attorney in Oklahoma. 
  2. An attorney listens to you, seems interested in your case and speaks so that you can understand legal terms and concepts. 
  3. An attorney that explains the pros and cons of your case.
  4. An attorney that you trust.  You need an attorneys on your side and working with you. 
  5. An attorney that insists on both of you signing a Legal Services Agreement – it should clearly state that the attorney is going to do, how much they are going to charge and how much you are going to pay. 

What sort of attorney should I avoid?

  1. An attorney that makes guarantees or promises.  An attorney that claims they win 100% of their cases.  I once had a potential client ask me how many cases I had won.  I told him I could not answer that question since I felt the only winners in a divorce lawsuit are the attorneys. 
  2. An attorney that will represent both parties in a lawsuit.
  3. An attorney that practices in all areas of the law.  It is almost impossible today to stay up-to-date on all legal subjects. 
  4. An attorney you cannot afford.  If the attorney’s hourly rate is $600/hour and you make minimum wage, there is no way you can afford to hire this attorney for a prolonged child custody battle.  Be realistic. 
  5. An attorney that never sends you copies of correspondence in your case and never returns your calls.
How do I find an attorney?

  1. Ask your friends and attorneys who they recommend.  If your friend says the opposing counsel was much better than their lawyer, get the opposing counsel’s name!
  2. The American Bar Association has a comprehensive list of pro bono organizations throughout the U.S. if you qualify for free services. 
  3. If there is an attorney in your neighborhood, stop by their office and see if you like them. 
  4. Check your local TV guide, free newspapers, yellow pages, the internet, etc.  Be aware that all advertisements have been paid for by the attorney.  The bigger the ad, the more money spent.  The biggest ad does NOT mean the best lawyers.  Also, many “featured lawyers” or “top 10 lists” are merely expensive advertising.    
  5. Be a savvy consumer.  Example: My own mother paid $5,000 to a prestigious attorney for a will.  Years later she asked me to review her will.  I was shocked at the typos and errors.  I convinced her to use a small law firm and for under $1,200 she got an attorney that truly listened and prepared the documents to reflect her wishes. 
  6. Check out and - both of these sites allow people to post questions for free & attorneys to answer for free. You can read answers and see if you like an attorney.  You can get a "feel" for an attorney's personality.
  7. If you hire a board certified attorney, plan on paying more since that attorney is a specialist in their field & has taken a special test in order to advertise as a "board certified" attorney.