Monday, October 5, 2015

Terminating Parental Rights of an Absent parent

Clients often come to us asking for advice on whether they should try to terminate parental rights of their child's other parent.  In some of these cases, the biological parent has been literally absent for years, not paying support and not seeking visitation.
Each state has specific laws regarding how parental rights may be terminated.  This article pertains to the law in Texas.
Parental rights may be terminated voluntarily or involuntarily. When voluntary, the parent whose rights are being terminated will consent to the termination, and file the proper paperwork or appear in court.  If involuntary, the person contests the termination of his or her rights, and the judge will make the final decision. 
If you are a parent who is thinking about seeking termination of an absent parent's rights, here are some things you should know; 
1. The courts will be protective of the rights of all the parties. You may know that he/she has been a terrible parent, but you will have to prove it.  You should gather any evidence that you have. People are often shocked to discover that they have to go through several legal steps and have solid, specific proof to terminate a "deadbeat" parents rights.
2. The court may appoint an attorney to represent your child.  Often called an "attorney ad litem", this attorney will gather facts, interview involved parties and witnesses, appear at hearings, and make recommendations as to the "best interest of the child". 
3.  Another attorney may be appointed to represent an absent or unknown parent. 
4.  You will have to reveal where the other party is; or reveal his/her last known location. You, your attorney, or another attorney connected to the case will have to contact, or make best efforts to find that person. If there has been a long period of time with no communication, you should consider what might happen when communication is resumed.  (this is especially important if the other parent may be violent).
5. The court will require that a home study be performed by a qualified person, in order to gather information about the parties and their environment.
6. When budgeting for the case, you should consider the costs of the attorneys ad litem and home study. As the person filing the suit ("petitioner") you will usually pay these fees.  (some counties have "Family Services" departments which perform the home studies and the fees are on a "sliding scale" based on income).
There are times when the "best interest of the child" requires that the parental rights of a biological parent be terminated.   Although the procedure is an emotional one, it can be an important step to building a healthy family and moving towards the future. 

If you believe that this may be right for your family, the first step is to consult with a knowledgable attorney who practices family law and is familiar with Texas law involving termination of parental rights (or the law of your state).
Kalish Law Office has been representing clients in family law courts since 1984. The firm's website can be found at www.kalishlawtexas. com  

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, September 28, 2015

Tablet and Laptop Security Tips

Regular readers of our blog know that we love  to pass along safety tips that everyone  can use!

A great site for information is  This excellent site can help you keep your identity and valuables safe, give you news about current scams, and give you some general good information.

One important thing we can all do to keep our information safe is to protect our electronic devices.   A thief can swipe your device in a minute. If you are lucky, the thief will wipe it clean and sell it for quick cash. If you are unlucky, the thief will steal and use the information that is on it.   After a shopping spree, that same thief can sell your personal information, create havoc online, and then sell the device itself.

Onguardonline recommends these tips to keep your laptop from getting lost or stolen.   (most of these also apply to a tablet or a smart phone).

  1. Treat your tablet, laptop or smartphone like cash. 
  2. Don't leave it in the car
  3. Keep it locked (you can get a security cable for some devices)
  4. Keep it off the floor, or put it between and touching your feet
  5. Keep your passwords somewhere else (My own note: if this is impractical, at least invest in a secure, paid, encrypted, reputable, password storage app that erases the information after a few wrong log in attempts.)
  6. Don't leave it for "just a sec"
  7. Pay attention in airports- especially in security (My own tip: and also pay attention to your back pocket, and open purse on the back of your chair).
  8. Use bells and whistles (you can use an alarm or other security protection apps and passwords). 
Although some of these may be inconvenient, it is easier to avoid trouble in the first place that try to fix a problem once it has already happened. 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." Thirty one years and counting! 
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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Free Information for Your Small Business Start Up!

If you are thinking of starting a business right now, you can do a lot on your own to organize yourself.

There are many resources available tor small business owners.  The Small Business Administration has a lot of free information with organizational help online.  Also check out Texas Wide Open for Business from the Texas Governor's Office. This is a good resource for any Texas business and is especially informative for those who are newcomers to our state or who are considering coming here. 
And remember, you shouldn't wait until you have a crisis to choose a business attorney. It is well worth  your time to choose an experience Woodlands business attorney and set up a consultation. That way, if you have a legal need later on, all you'll need to do is pick up the phone. 
Check out our blog for more information and tips about your business and articles such as"Ten Things to Consider When Starting your own Business" and "Five Excellent Resources for Small Business". 
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Terminating Child Support in the Case of Mistaken Paternity

A man who is paying child support for a child that he mistakenly thought was his own child may be able to seek termination of the parent-child relationship and the duty to pay child support.  The case must meet certain requirements in order to proceed. 
First, a petition is filed in family court.  A hearing is held and if the judge determines that certain criteria are met, genetic testing will be ordered.
If the genetic testing confims that the man is not the biological parent of the child, the judge may terminate parental rights and the duty to pay future child support. However, the man will still have to pay any arrearage (back child support) that is due prior to the date of the court order terminating that duty.   
A man who learns that he is not the genetic father of a child has only one year to file a petition in court. 
Filing such a petition should be carefully thought through, because it is a serious matter.   A man who has truly been a father to a child may not want to change that, and may decide that biology doesn't matter.  
Terminating the parent-child relationship is always a serious matter that affects the lives of many people.
A consultation with a family law attorney can help determine the best course of action.  Additional information can also be found on the Texas Attorney General website under the Child Support Division. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

When Child Support Under the Guidelines is Not Enough

In addition to the general child support guidelines, the Texas Family Code also lists additional factors that may be considered by a judge in awarding child support outside the guidelines (either more or less support than would be ordered by applying strict guidelines). 
For instance, the party who has primary care of the child may have physical limitations him/herself, may be unemployed through no fault of his/her own, or may be unable to work due to the child's needs. If a child has special needs, that will be a major consideration.  All of these factors may allow for the Obligee (the person receiving child support) to request support above the guidelines.

On the other hand, the Obligor (person who  pays child support) may need to ask for a child support reduction, for the same reasons.   The Obligor may have a medical condition or disability, be unable to work through no fault of his/her own, or be able to show that the child is actually living with him/her most or all of the time. 

During a divorce, any unusual and all relevant facts should be discussed with your attorney.  After the divorce is final, any significant change in circumstances (health, employment, finances, where the child is living) may lead to a petition requesting that the judge order an increase or decrease in the amount of child support owed. 
If you believe that you may need to have a modification, or may need to ask for child support outside the guidelines, request a child support consult to discuss the circumstances with a family law attorney.  

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, August 31, 2015

Health Information Confidentiality

Most everyone has heard of HIPAA (the "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act").   This law covers health care plans, health care providers, clearinghouses, and their business associates. The health care information of individuals is protected from disclosure to the wrong parties by following these rules.

In general, the patient controls who sees his/her health care information.  There are two "required disclosures" that the health care entity must make:  1) to the individual or their personal representatives when specifically requested; and 2) to Health and Human Services in response to an investigation or review.

There are also certain times when the "public interest" may allow disclosure.   Public interest situations include disclosures made because of specific laws or situations (child abuse or neglect, abuse of the elderly or disabled, FDA tracking, OHSA purposes, communicable disease control, and the like).   Disclosure may also be allowed in some cases of domestic violence, to protect another person or the public from a threat, to facilitate organ donation, for purposes of determining cause of death or for preparing a body for burial, for law enforcement purposes, for workers compensation laws, or for other essential government functions.  There may also be disclosure when a court or administrative agency demands it by subpoena, order, or other lawful process.

But all of the rules and regulations in the world can't protect your information if you are careless with it yourself.  To maintain good control over your protected information, do the following: 

  1. Think about who you want to have access to your health care information.   It is usually best to have at least one person who has access, just in case something happens to you and you need assistance.  But don't choose just anyone, choose someone you trust. 
  2. Treat your medical records, prescription records and medical bills with the same care that you use for your bank statements and credit card receipts. 
  3. If you login online to see your medical records, be sure to use secure passwords and make sure that you log out when you are finished.  
  4. Be careful in public.  Just like you shouldn't shout out your social security number in public, you shouldn't share private health care information where the wrong person can hear it. 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Before you Embark on a Journey of Revenge...

"Revenge is sweet" according to a popular expression.

However, Confucius warned, "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves."

While the idea of revenge may feel satisfying, there is no doubt that it takes a toll on both parties.

There is nothing that gets strong emotions going like a legal fight.   Divorce, custody fights, business break ups, property disputes-  these are all the stuff of which revenge fantasies are made.

However, it is undisputable that taking out anger on the other party can have undesirable results, such as:
  1. Bystanders caught in the cross-fire (children, employees, friends).
  2. High blood pressure and other physical problems.
  3. Negative impact on the legal case by letting emotions rule the day.
  4. Decrease of income, lost business opportunities, and a disorganized personal/family life, because of lack of attention to the task at hand. 
  5. Affect on other personal relationships because the angry person has a "one track mind". 
Confucius was born over 2500 years ago, but the wisdom in this saying still holds true today.   "Before you make a journey of revenge, dig two graves."  Don't sacrifice yourself to pay someone back.    If you have a lawsuit pending, work within the legal system to make your point. Your attorney and the law office staff will help you by keeping you focused on what's important. 

Remember that "The best revenge is living well."

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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