Monday, June 30, 2014

Introduction to Divorce Mediation

Intro to Divorce Mediation

Mediation is an option for couples who want to avoid the adversarial divorce process.

For some people, the words "divorce" or "family law" or "child custody" conjures up a stressful and expensive courtroom battle - a scenario where spouses/former partners battle it out in court and attempt to destroy each other's character and credibility.  The movie "War of the Roses" comes to mind.

But it does not have to be that way.  Alternative Dispute Resolution has a process called MEDIATION that offers an alternative to litigation.  In Texas, if an attorney serves as a mediator then that person cannot prepare the legal paperwork.  The mediator would refer you to a family law attorney to draft the paperwork for the Judge to sign to make all of your agreements enforceable in the future if one of you violates the agreements you reach at mediation. Mediation an preserve your finances, self-respect and sanity.  

What is Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is a process in which you and your spouse work with a trained, neutral 3rd party divorce mediator to reach a settlement. 

There is no time limit to the mediation, which is good news for spouses who need more than one session in order to clarify their goals, views and expectations. 

There is also no limit as to what issues can be mediated (such as spousal and child support, assets, visitation, and so on).  Mediation allows more flexibility than litigation - since the judge must follow the Texas Family Code and at mediation we can be more flexible.  

Divorce mediation can be an approach that some couples have relied upon to make their divorce journey relatively smooth and even — believe it or not — peaceful and productive.  It's the beginning of your new and different relationship if you have children.  

The Benefits of Divorce Mediation

Some of the broad benefits of divorce mediation have already been mentioned — including the most important of them all: it's not court and it is confidential.  Additionally, the parties control the process.

There are many other key benefits that are worth highlighting; especially in light of what's at stake during divorce, and how quickly things can unravel and become contested and nasty. These key benefits include:
  • Divorce mediation can save you money. If your divorce winds its way through court, you can count on huge legal bills, plus other experts that you'll need to bring onto your team (financial experts, child care experts, etc.). Divorce mediation isn't free, and you still may need to bring in expert legal and financial expertise, but it is normally less expensive than litigation.
  • Divorce mediation can save you time. Unless your divorce situation is incredibly simple (i.e. you have no children, few shared assets, and both you and your spouse are eager to put the marriage in the rear-view mirror ASAP), then be prepared for a relatively lengthy process. But with mediation, you and your spouse can reduce the time involved if you prioritize your goals, put your emotions aside, follow the guidance of the mediator and negotiate in good faith.
  • Divorce mediation is fair. Mediation does not guarantee an ideal, happy win-win outcome. That's unrealistic. However, a trained and impartial mediator can even out the level of the playing field by ensuring neither spouse will overpower the other with emotional or financial control. A skilled mediator will diffuse emotions and show you how to focus on your common goals and resolve your differences. This way, neither of you feel railroaded into accepting an offer. On some issues, you'll bend a little. On other issues, your spouse will do the bending.
  • Divorce mediation is private. This is a benefit that many spouses don't pay much attention to (or don't know about) until they wind up in court and are forced to state — on the public record — personal and financial information that they likely wouldn't even dream of telling their closest friend. Information about affairs, about substance abuse, alcohol, physical and emotional abuse, about addictions, about their financial settlement… and so on. With divorce mediation, while these aspects may indeed come up, the information is kept private and your personal information is destroyed when the process is finished.  The mediator can never been subpoened or testify in a court proceeding.
  • Divorce mediation can broker better long-term solutions. When you and your spouse co-create solutions on everything from alimony to visitation to who gets the family dog (or cat), there's a greater chance that you'll both be satisfied with those solutions in the long-term future. Compare this to having a decision imposed on you by a judge — which can be shocking and hard for you to accept.  The judge will make decisions but usually neither one of you is happy with the court's decisions.
  • Divorce mediation can preserve your relationships with your spouse and your children. During mediation, you and your spouse will learn how to communicate and negotiate without being adversarial. This is invaluable training that will be useful even after the divorce, especially if you have children. Studies have shown that, contrary to popular belief, divorce itself doesn't necessarily have a negative or even a traumatic impact on children. Rather, it's how parents behave during and after divorce that deeply influences children. Mediation helps you and your spouse put your personal agenda aside and co-create a parenting plan that's best for you and your children. Indeed, as my father used to say - once you have children you are never truly divorced.  
How do I Know if Divorce Mediation is for Me?

Divorce mediation is not for everyone, or every divorce situation. And while there's no hard-and-fast set of rules or consistent "checklist" to tell you if divorce mediation is a viable option for you, here are some situations when divorce mediation will work best:
  • When you and your spouse can communicate reasonably (or are at least willing to try). Keep in mind that, by no means do you and your spouse need to get along in order to attempt divorce mediation. You just need to be willing to communicate and, to some extent, exit your comfort zones and work together towards a shared goal: the fair dissolution of your marriage.
  • When there is a basic level of trust between you and your spouse. At any time, during mediation, you or your spouse can get up from the table and march into court. Obviously you want this to happen only as a last resort, and not at the first sign of stress, tension or trouble. Remember, divorce mediation isn't as brutal as court (which is adversarial by its very nature), but it's no picnic either. Be prepared for some ups and downs, and be willing to really give it an honest try before giving up.
  • When you're honestly prepared to end the marriage. This may seem like a very strange point, but there are many couples who, fundamentally, don't want to get divorced. And so they end up viewing the divorce mediator as a marriage counselor. This is an extreme mistake. Divorce mediators are not trained to patch up a marriage. They are focused on helping both parties co-create fair, reasonable and acceptable resolutions as part of the dissolution of the marriage.
For more information on mediation check out --

To find an experienced family law mediator check out -
Association of Attorney Mediators
Texas Mediator Credentialing Association (TMCA)
Texas Association of Mediators (TAM)
Association for Conflict Resolution - Houston
Association for Conflict Resolution - National website - to find an attorney and/or mediator in your area

Fran Brochstein is an Advanced Credentialed Mediator through the TMCA.  She is a member of all of the organizations lived above & several more.  She is a licensed attorney with over 22 years experience.  Houstonia Magazine in their December 2013 issue listed her as one of the top family law attorneys in the Houston area.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Finding the BEST family law attorney for YOU!

1.  Check with your friends and family.  If they have a family law attorney that they liked talk to that person.  Many attorneys offer a free consultation either in person or by phone.

2.  People want "the best" family law attorney.  I don't know what that means.  A good attorney for Client A might be a horrible fit for Client B.  Family law is usually emotionally driven so you need an attorney (and the attorney's staff) that you trust & feel comfortable working with regarding YOUR unique situation.

You need an attorney that you an talk to & tell everything to honestly.  I cannot believe how often people say, I could never talk to my attorney or my attorney does not listen to me.  You are the boss and you need to have an advocate on YOUR side.  If it's not a good fit, find a new attorney.  You need to trust and respect your attorney! Just because your best friend loved this attorney -- the same attorney might not be a good fit for your case.

3.  Many board certified attorneys charge $400 or more an hour.  If you cannot afford to spend this much then it's not a good "fit" for you.  You might not need a Rolls Royce if you have a VW family law case.  You don't want to hire an attorney that you cannot afford then have to switch attorneys later -- not an effective use of your time and money.

One lady called me and said that she'd been told that only a handful of attorneys could handle her case in Houston.  She was very emotional and scared about the future.  But after talking to her, even though she and her husband were extremely wealthy, the facts of their divorce were pretty basic.  She had already spent $150,000 in legal fees with 3 attorneys and had nothing to show for it -- not even temporary orders! I suspect that she called her attorney on a daily basis & was using the attorney as a therapist/counselor.  I also suspect that she just did not like Texas family laws & she thought that "shopping" around would get her a different result.  I think she'd made it to the "do not take this client" attorney list.  There is a very wise policy among experienced family law attorneys -- never be the 3rd attorney in a family law case & if you do accept the case charge triple for it!

4.  There are many wonderfully qualified non-board certified attorneys that practice family law.  So look around.

5.  I would stay away from a recent law school graduate - they don't have much court room or "life" experience.  I certainly don't want an unmarried 25 year old helping me during one of the most stressful times of my life.  I want someone that has some "life experience" and can understand what I am going through.  Ending a relationship is the death of your relationship - all of your hopes, dreams, plans just flew out the window!

6.  Family law is not an exact science.  In most family law cases, the attorney must be able to adjust to the  current circumstances.  For example, if an uncontested divorce is filed then one spouse tries to kill the other spouse, the attorney needs to be able to quickly make adjustments to their strategy in representing their client.

7.  You want an attorney that is available -- Do they answer emails or text messages? Can you talk to them or their paralegal if you have an emergency?  Be prepared to pay for this type of immediate access to a busy family law attorney.

A good attorney does not accept every case that walks in their door.  Sometimes it's not a good fit and a smart attorney will refer the person to another attorney.  Sometimes the attorney has a lot of hearings/trials scheduled and the timing is not right.  Most attorneys want to do a good job & will decline a case for a variety of reasons.

8.  You want someone that keeps you informed on a monthly basis as to the status of your case.  Sometimes nothing is happening.  Sometimes things are exploding and emails/faxes are flying -- you want to receive a copy of what is going on and be kept informed on a regular basis -- this does not mean every 5 minutes -- or you will pay a lot of money for this type of immediate service.

9.  The only thing an attorney can sell is their knowledge, time and experience.  Our paperwork is our product.  Don't expect an attorney to work for free.  Your dentist, manicurist, a/c repairman does not work for free & your attorney does not work for free.  If you call or text an attorney, expect to be charged for their time and expertise.

10.  Don't try to go to court without an attorney.  I see people in the law library or around the courthouse trying to do it themselves. One guy was a bus driver -- I told him that I would be dangerous if I tried to drive his bus & he was in dangerous waters trying to practice law without the proper foundation (law school) or knowledge of the court system and TX laws.

I really liked the commercial that had a man on the phone with a surgical knife as a surgeon tried to explain how to do his own surgery!

I don't do my own plumbing repairs, dental work or car repairs -- I hire an expert to do it right the first time & not waste my time and money.

11.  If you don't trust your attorney then get a new one.  You are going through a difficult period and you need someone that you trust and have confidence in to guide you through this process.

12.  Most attorneys won't tell you but in Texas 90-95% of all family law cases settle before trial.  Either through negotiation or mediation.  Most people cannot afford a trial - they are mentally exhausting and expensive.  But timing in settling a case is truly an art.  A good attorney will know when to push for settlement.

13. Many people just want the pain to go away.  They want to finish their case quickly.  Sometimes this is a bad idea.

For example, one party just went through drug rehab.  It's best to go 6 months and see if they can stay clean and sober.

Also, the pain does not go away just because the case settles and the paperwork is signed by the Judge.  Most people don't believe this -- but it's true.

You still have to "deal" with the other party if there are children.  You will be co-parenting your children for the rest of your lives.  You will be co-grand-parenting your grandchildren -- it never ends!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Texas Statues of Limitation

A lot of statues of limitations run 4 years in Texas BUT not all!  You need to look up the law and determine if yours is more or less.

Breach of Promise to Marry is 1 year
VTCA Civil Prac. and Rem. Code Section 16.002(a)

Malpracice Legal and Accountant is 2 years
VTCA Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Section 16.003(a)

Defamation - Libel and Slander is 1 year
VTCA Civ. Prac. & Rem Code Section 16.003(a)

To Cancel Will for Forgery or Fraud - 2 years AFTER discovery
VATS Probate Code Section 93

To contest Validity of Will Admitted to Probate - 2 years after will admitted to probate
BUT Minors and Mentally incompetent persons have 2 years from removal of disability to contest probate.

Most Employment & Discriminations Suits in Texas are 2 years but there are some exceptions so talk to a lawyer about your individual facts.
Labor Code Section 62.202
Labor Code Section 451.001
Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Section 16.003(a)

No statute to determine Paternity

Enforcement of Child Support in Court of Continuing Jurisdiction
Generally 2 years after the child turns 18 or 2 years AFTER obligation ends
Family Code Section 157.005(a)

Division of Property not divided on Divorce or Annulment -
2 years from date the former spouse communicates repudiation of ownership interest.
Family Code Section 9.202(a)

Facebook page - Texas Lawyers for Lawyers

Texas Family Law Attorneys -- New Facebook page to join:
Texas Lawyers for Lawyers is a grass-roots support group. 
You must be approved to join this attorney group.
Our goals are simple: 
Group Advocacy and a Low-Cost CLE Alternative. 
First CLE is planned for September 19, 2014 in Rockport, Texas.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Unsolicited positive reviews from people on for the past year

  1. Below are unsolicited comments from people that I talked to on the phone.  Most never became clients.  I have a 10.0 rating on due to these wonderful reviews.

    Posted by a client, 
    Overall rating
    Kept me informed
    • I recommend Fran Brochstein.
    I reached out to Fran regarding my custody case. She responded to my email within the hour and was very knowledgeable and gave me really good advice on what I should expect. I currently have a lawyer but I was basically wanting an opinion from another source to see where they thought my case was going. She put my mind at ease and told me I had a very good lawyer on my side and to trust her. I am grateful she took time out of her busy schedule to call me just to give me some advice. It's good to know there are lawyers out there that aren't only concerned with money. I would definitely recommend Fran for her knowledge AND compassion.
    Add a comment

  2. Honest, knowledgeable, and compassionate

  3. Great attorney, insightful, and very helpful!

    Posted by Tanya, 
    Overall rating
    Kept me informed
    • I recommend Fran Brochstein.
    Fran reached out to me on a legal site for advice after I had lost my representation in a case that was still brewing. She was warm, insightful, and full of information on how I should proceed, and very professional in her manner. I would definitely recommend Fran for mediation, and/or attorney services! She truly does care about the people, in a world where our attorneys have mostly become numb to the feelings of their clients. Thank you, Fran, for your support during such a difficult time!
    Add a comment
  4. Excellent and experienced Attorney

    Posted by a client, 
    Overall rating
    Kept me informed
    • I recommend Fran Brochstein.
    Ms. Brochstein has been the most forthcoming and honest attorney that I have have ever come across. Unfortunately I have experienced many attorneys in the past looking for their own best interests instead of the interests of the client. This would certainly not be the case with regards to Ms. Brochstein. I was able to lay out my case for her, get great advice and a referral to another attorney that would be more specifically suited to my needs. Ms. Brochstein does mainly mediation cases at the this time and I would recommend Ms. Brochstein as a person of high ethics and always keeping the client and the clients family as a priority.
    1. Fran Brochstein

      Fran Brochstein

      Lawyer Comment:
      Thank you so much for your kind words! I don't know who is this but I truly appreciate your recommendation.
      Posted 4 months ago.  Flag
    Add a comment
  5. All from one phone call! There's hope!

    Posted by OneFedUpMom!, 
    Overall rating
    Kept me informed
    • I recommend Fran Brochstein.
    I made a phone call to Fran this morning. I am looking at hiring an attorney to handle my cases. I say cases, because this my ex has refused to comply with any of the orders in our decree. Let me begin by saying we divorced in 2008. Since then, I have been to court 3 times, all of which he was given a slap on the wrist. So we will be going back, yet again. After giving Mrs. Brochstein the information, she recommended a couple of attorneys to me. She also gave me really good advice on what to look at. It was a joy talking to a sane, and personable attorney that only mediates now. If we go to mediation again, I will be recommending we go to Mrs. Brochstein. She's got it together. Thank you again.
    Add a comment
  6. STRAIGHT SHOOTER - The way to go

    Posted by a client, 
    Overall rating
    Kept me informed
    • I recommend Fran Brochstein.
    I have to say that this Attorney/Mediator is probably one of the most straight forward attorneys/mediators you may ever speak to. She is very knowledgeable but can break it down to an average Joe in laymen's terms. She is not like others out there just after a buck. She dedicates her own personal time to helping her clients. I strongly recommend her.
    Add a comment
  7. Miracle Worker!!!!

    Posted by a Family client, 
    Overall rating
    Kept me informed
    • I recommend Fran Brochstein.
    • Fran handled my Family matter.
    Fran Brochstein is an absolute miracle worker!! My daughter is being sued for divorce by her husband and he filed for divorce some 300 miles away. We were very concerned as my daughter had not had time to retain an attorney and would be pro se against a seasoned attorney. Thanks to Ms. Brochstein, her expert knowledge and advice the case will now be heard in my daughter's county! Ms. Brochstein was easy to contact via her cell phone and responded to me (someone she had never met) very promptly. She listened very closely to the issues at hand and spent quite a long time on the phone with me. She is very knowledgeable and the issues that she raised were absolutely accurate thus the judge granted the motion/order that my daughter presented. If I were to rate Ms. Brochstein she would score a 10 out of 10 in every category. In my book, she is a life saver!!!! Thank you Ms. Brochstein, we will never forget you!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Old blog posts never die! Beware

Be aware that old blog posts are on the internet and cannot be removed.  In Texas, the legislature meets every 2 years and "tweaks" Texas family laws.

So...if you see a post older than 2 years -- be aware that there might be some new changes in the law.


I no longer can log onto my old blogsite ( so even if the information is inaccurate I cannot delete it!  Frustrating but an internet reality today.

So enjoy my blog posts but consult with a family law attorney in your area to address your specific and unique situation.

CPS Attorneys in Harris County

Here are the names of some attorneys 
that I have worked with on CPS cases.

Bobbie Young, RN and Attorney

Barbara Ramirez


Rose Cardenas


Claudia Canales


Jontae Chatman


Katrina Griffith


Eric McFerren


Rogers J. Boudreaux, Jr.


Leonel "Leo" Farias


Julie Rosemary Brock-Clure


Stephanie Proffitt


Patricia Bushman
I think she's raised her usual deposit rate to $3,000
effective 8/15/2014.  Her first appointment is free.

Monday, June 16, 2014


Estate Planning Information

This data sheet can be helpful for organizing your thoughts about estate planning and for providing information to us about your family and estate.  Please fill it out as well as you can, either skipping or placing question marks on those items that seem inapplicable or about which you have questions or simply don't know the answer.

Personal Information


Your Spouse

Full Name:

Nickname or Preferred Name:

Birth Date:

Social Security Number:


Estimated Annual Income from Salary, Bonuses, Etc.:

Estimated Annual Investment Income (Dividends, Interest, Etc.):

Work Telephone:

Work Fax:


Email Address:

Home Address (Include County):

Home Telephone:

Home Fax:

Date and Place of Marriage:

If you have lived outside Texas during this marriage, please list the states and dates of residence:


Your Spouse

If either of you were previously married, list the dates of prior marriage, name or prior spouse, names of living children from prior marriage(s), and state whether marriage ended by death or divorce:

Describe any real estate owned by either or both of you outside Texas:

Location of Safe Deposit Box (if any):

Name and Telephone of Your Insurance Agent (if any):

Name and Telephone of Your Accountant (if any):

Name and Telephone of Your Broker or Financial Planner (if any):

Other Information:


Full Name

Birth Date

Address (If Child Does Not Reside With You)



Current Fair Market Value

How Is Title Held?*

Bank Accounts (not IRAs and Retirement Plans)

Stocks, Bonds and Mutual Funds (not IRAs and Retirement Plans)

Closely Held Businesses, Partnerships, Etc.

Real Estate

Automobiles, Boats, Etc.

Other Property


*  If you know if the property is your separate property, your wife=s separate property or community property, so state.  If not, state the name(s) which appear on the title, if known, and state whether the property is held with right of survivorship, if known.





Other Liabilities


Life Insurance and Annuities




Face Amount

Cash Value


IRAs, 401(k)s, and Other Retirement Plans



Type of Plan

Vested Amount

Death Benefit


Dispositive Plan:
(Describe in general terms how you wish to leave your property at death)

Other Beneficiaries
(Information about persons other than your spouse and descendants who you wish to benefit.)

Full Name



Relationship to You

List name, address, home telephone and relationship to you for each person)


Your Spouse

Executor:  (The executor is the person responsible for probating the will, filing the estate tax return, and distributing assets to beneficiaries.)

First Alternate Executor:

Second Alternate Executor:

Trustee:  (The trustee is the person responsible for long-term management of property for the surviving spouse, children, or other beneficiaries.)

First Alternate Trustee:

Second Alternate Trustee:

Guardian of Minor Children:  (The guardian is the person who will take physical care of minor children should both parents die.)

First Alternate Guardian:

Second Alternate Guardian:

Property Agent:  (The property agent is the person who will handle your financial affairs if you become incapacitated.)

First Alternate Property Agent:

Second Alternate Property Agent:

Health Care Agent:  (The health care agent is the person who will make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated.)

First Alternate Health Care Agent:

Second Alternate Health Care Agent: