Monday, November 14, 2016

Warn your teen-agers about "sexting"

A very upset parent just contacted me.  Her daughter is a honor roll student and on the student council.  She never thought this could happen to their family.

Apparently her 15 year old daughter had sex with her boyfriend who is 17 yrs. old.  He videotaped her naked and they "sexted" photos of their privates to each other.

He has distributed these videos and photos all over the internet via different social media sites plus sent them to her friends.

So have a serious talk with your teens about sex, videotaping and sharing "private" info.

He is 17 yrs. old so he's an adult for criminal purposes in Texas.

She is under 17 so she cannot consent to sex.  But since they are so close in age it won't be considered "statutory rape".

The parents went to talk to his parents who laughed the entire thing off.

Now the girl is embarrassed and does not want to go back to school and face her friends.

What to do?

Contact the local police.

Contact the District Attorney's office.

Contact an attorney that handles some criminal law cases as well as has knowledge on getting a restraining order.

This young lady's life is now in shambles.  She is totally embarrassed.  Her entire family is living a nightmare because her naked photos are on so many websites.

They were madly in love, then broke up so he decided to "punish" her.

Now his parents are probably going to have to hire a lawyer to represent him in civil and criminal court.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Why doing legal paperwork is often a bad idea

On - another interesting question was posted today.

Avvo is a free website where people can ask attorneys questions.

Today's question involved  a do it yourself divorce question that now has possibly created a huge mess that is going to cost a lot of time and money to fix.

Guy divorces wife with dementia several years ago.  No attorneys involved. Now years later her sisters apply for guardianship over the ex-wife and want husband to "re-divide" the divorce assets.  Of course, since divorce the man has accumulated more assets.

I suspect if he can prove that wife was competent at time of divorce and signed all the papers properly then he's fine.  However, he's going to have to hire a lawyer to go to probate court and defend him.

So here is the bottom line...

Pay a lawyer now a little bit of money to do it right or pay a lawyer a lot of money later to try to "fix" or "minimize" the mess you caused by saving a few bucks.

I am an attorney and I never represent myself in court --- I hire someone to guide me and protect me.  When I'm personally and emotionally involved in a matter then I might not be thinking straight.  I find it much cheaper to do it "right" the first time and avoid head-aches and aggravation later.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Things to think about BEFORE mediation

People often come to mediation unprepared.

It wastes time and money.

Here are some things to consider BEFORE you show up at mediation:

1.  What are the possible strengths of your case?

2. What are the possible weaknesses of your case?

Yes, all cases have strengths AND weaknesses.
Even the thinnest pancake has 2 sides.
No case is EVER a "slam-dunk".
There are always two sides to the story.

3. What has the judge done in the past in cases similar to yours?

Each case is unique -- but knowing how the judge has ruled in the past can be very helpful.

4. If you have a jury trial scheduled, how have juries in your county ruled in the past?

Remember - in family cases - juries are allowed BUT they do not make all the decisions.  The law in Texas still allows judges to have input in the final outcome of the case. Talk to your attorney about this and possible outcomes BEFORE showing up at mediation.

5. To settle the case NOW, what will you do to resolve the matter today?

6. What do you think the other side would say to question #5?

Crawl in the other party's head and try to assess their best and worst day in court.

7. What is your absoute worst deal that you would accept to settle this case NOW?

8. What do you think the other side would say to question #7?

9. What is the very best outcome you can expect if you go to trial?

10. What do you think the other side would say to question #8?

In family courts, judges tend not to give either party 100% of what they ask for. Most judges try to let both sides leave feeling that they "won" something.

For example, even in a really bad property division case, the judge rarely (if ever) gives 100-0 split.  Most like 50-50 or 45-55 or maybe (not very often) 60-40.  After 25 years, I've seen a few 90-10 but that normally only occurs when there is little community property and the 10% party has a huge separate property estate.

Monday, November 7, 2016

There are 2 terms that many mediators use --

BATNA (Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement) 
WATNA (Worst Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement)

Both can be useful to help people evaluate their case and their success or failure at trial.

Mediators like to discuss the best and worst outcome a trial to help people "reality test" their case. It helps to move the negotiation process forward.

Of course, discussing BATNA and WATNA with the people should be done privately and never in a joint session.  I find that people are more willing to open up privately then when they are in the same room.

As Judge Dempster (of blessed memory) used to say "even the thinnest pancake has 2 sides."  A skilled mediator should encourage people to see the pros and cons of their case.  Often this can be quite emotional and scary so it must be done gently. 

I rarely see a case that is a "slam dunk".  Most cases have pros and cons.  If cases were clear cut then the courts would be empty. Unfortunately, most people can only see their side of the case and they are resistant to seeing the other party's side of the story. 

Mediators who can help parties to perform a high quality and comprehensible alternatives analysis will often improve negotiation strategy significantly. 

Many times there are benefits to settling that the parties have not considered - such as (1) their growing legal fees (2) how their lives are put on hold while the lawsuit is pending (3) the possibility that they will lose and (4) how the lawsuit is impacting their physical and mental well being and (5) how the lawsuit is impacting the entire family. 

After being a full-time mediator for 10 years I have learned that the mediation process can be empowering and even healing for the parties involved in a nasty, contested lawsuit. Mediation is a process and it often takes time for the parties to embrace the option of resolving their disputes at mediation. When settlement happens the relief on the parties faces and body language can be remarkable.

I get a lot more hugs (and flowers) from mediations than I ever did when I litigated.