Monday, January 26, 2015

Child Support Outside the Guidelines

The Texas Family Code states specific guidelines for determining child support to be paid.  These basic guidelines are as follows:

  • 20% of the obligor's (payor's) net resources for one child
  • 25% for 2 children,
  • 30% for 3 children,
  • 35% for 4 children,
  • 40% for 5 children,
  • Not less than 40% for 6 or more children.
These are the standard guidelines. However, there are times when "one size fits all" just doesn't work.

For instance, either party may have physical limitations, may be unemployed through no fault of his/her own, may have other children to support, may be paying spousal maintenance as well as child support, may have taken on the majority of debt from the marriage, or may have to incur travel expenses to visit the child.  Some other factors which may be considered: whether either party has automobile, housing or other benefits furnished to them, and which party is paying uninsured medical expenses.

The age and needs of the child will also be taken into account. 

In short, "..any other reason consistent with the best interest of the child, taking into consideration the circumstances of the parents." 

See Texas Family Code Section 154.123.

A Texas family law attorney can help you decide how much child support you should seek or expect to pay in your divorce case. If you are already divorced and believe that you may need to seek a modification of child support that you pay or receive, a consultation with a child support attorney can help you.   You should bring evidence of your income to the meeting.  

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Don't Take the Bait!

If you are involved in any type of legal dispute it is important to keep your thinking and behavior independent from your opponent's thinking and behavior.

If you get upset and show your worst side, you'd better believe that it can come back to bite you.

Displaying your uncontrolled rage in person, by text, by voice mail, or online can really harm your case.

Always "take the high road". Hang up. Walk away. Ignore inflammatory electronic communications.

If your opponent tries to goad you into an uncontrolled display of anger, don't take the bait!

Here are some times when losing your temper can be especially harmful to your case:

  1. When you use bad language and/or make a personal attack;
  2. When you"lose it" in front of children in a divorce or involve the children in the dispute;
  3. When you "let go" in front of customers or co-workers in a business setting;
  4. When you display your anger in a public place, especially if that public place is in or near the courthouse (yes, it does happen!)
  5. When you provide evidence by posting your angry or sarcastic rant online or in texts or voice mail.
It is important to stand up for yourself, but do so in a controlled, effective, well-considered way. Don't be out of control.

Remember: if the "other guy" can get you to behave in a manner that is out of control then s/he has the power, not you! 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, January 12, 2015

Help your Attorney Prepare Your Divorce Case for Court

When going through a divorce it is normal to feel that things are out of your control.    It can be helpful to take some constructive action in helping your attorney prepare your case. Here are some proactive things that you can do.
  1. Answer calls and emails from your attorney promptly.
  2. When your attorney or the legal staff have a question for you, read/listen carefully and answer the entire question. 
  3. Return all questionnaires and discovery answers to your attorney promptly and be as complete and truthful as possible in your answers
  4. Schedule an appointment with the attorney (or paralegal) when necessary. Come to the meeting on time and ready to work.
  5. Look at the preparation as an opportunity to contribute as a valuable member of "your team", rather than being angry and resentful about it. 
  6. Focus on the present rather than the past or the future ("How can I prepare now in the best and most efficient way possible?" rather than "So many years wasted" or "How am I going to feel in the courtroom?")
  7. Organizing your thoughts and paperwork, being honest, and having the right attitude can make a tremendous difference in the outcome of your case. 
  8. Being a "team player" with your attorney may save you legal fees. If you present your lawyer with complete answers and organized documents the staff and attorney will not have to spend time puzzling through them.  Stay focused on the task at hand and use your preparation time with your attorney wisely.
  9. Make sure that you are able to be reached and check your phone messages and email frequently.
  10. Be honest with your attorney about your fears and your strengths. 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Sunday, January 4, 2015

New & Creative Solutions to Old Problems

"Insanity:  Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."- Albert Einstein.

When the same legal problems keep happening over and over, it is normal to get frustrated.  This is especially common in situations where people must interact closely over a long period of time (divorce, custody, business partners, neighbors).

If you are in this situation, it can be helpful to look at things with a fresh, new perspective, especially at the start of a new year! Here are some tips to help get you unstuck, and on your way to a better year.

  1. Tap into your creative side- try tackling the problem from a new vantage point. Where do you do your best thinking?  What time of day? Set aside some time to brainstorm and treat this like a serious project. 
  2. Don't rule out anything. Make a list of possible solutions. You can even include solutions that are impractical or seem silly. This may help you see an angle you hadn't thought about before. 
  3. Put yourself in the other guy's shoes.   If a lot of what is happening is out of your hands, you'll need to try to figure out why others are motivated to cause trouble (or unmotivated to find a solution).  
  4. Try to find a way to talk to the other person/people in a way that they can understand.  Try to give "constructive criticism" and try not to put them on the defensive.
  5. Look at your own behavior. You aren't perfect. What can you do better?  Are you a "control freak"? Do you surprise people by holding in your anger until you blow? Are there some issues that are better left alone.
If you need assistance with a legal issue, a legal consultation with a qualified attorney can provide you with further ideas about solutions and options, and can give you a new perspective on an old problem! 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, December 29, 2014

The Legal Document that Terminally Ill or Frail Patients Should Have

Persons who are facing an advanced illness are advised to think about having their physician sign specific medical orders which respect patient choices in end-of-life issues.

These orders are referred to in Texas as MOST (Medical Orders Scope of Treatment).  In other states, they may be called POLST (Physician Orders for Life-sustaining Treatment).

Here are some facts to consider:

  1. These orders are recommended for persons who have advanced or terminal illness or are frail and may die within one year. 
  2. The patient or his/her representative speaks frankly with the doctor to choose treatments that the patient wants or does not want.
  3. The preferences are put into writing and are signed by the doctor. 
  4. The form accompanies the patient. It will be recognized by EMT personnel and other emergency responders, ER staff, and other medical or nursing facilities. 
  5. It is a good idea to keep the form on the front of the patient's refrigerator or another spot where it would be seen by emergency responders. 
  6. The MOST is not for everyone.  If the person does not have an advanced illness, an "Advanced Directive" may be the best option.  
  7. An Advanced Directive can be used to designate someone to speak for the patient and discuss medical preferences in more general terms. 
  8. Click here for more information about the POLST. This is a national website. 
  9. Click here for more information about MOST. This is a Texas-specific website. 
  10. If you need assistance, a consultation with an estate planning or elder care attorney can help you and your loved ones determine the best legal documents for your situation. 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference."
We are celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2014!  A big THANK YOU you to our clients & the community for making this possible! 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Great Tips for Avoiding SCAMS!

Scammers. They are out there...  waiting.... waiting for your attention to be distracted... waiting for that moment when you let your guard down for just a minute!

Scammers target the elderly. They also may attempt to extract information from children who answer the phone. They may attempt to get information by calling a business and pretending to be a client, supplier, organization or institution (like pretending to be from the Better Business Bureau or a bank).

Scammers will text or call, email or show up in person. They will threaten you or profess their love for you.   They will offer you lottery winnings, a business opportunity, or pretend that they want to become your customer.  They will entice you to call them back or text them back in order to charge you premium rates or gather your information.

They may offer to pay you for good or services in advance, then steal bank account information or get a refund from you and then cancel the original funds they sent, leaving you holding the bag.

One of the absolute BEST sources of information on scams that I have seen is a Canadian publication.   Although I write a blog in Texas, and even though some of the laws and information may differ, I am sharing the link here because this is such an excellent and helpful publication.   Click here for the "Little Black Book of Scams".     You may be surprised as some of the information you read.

I recommend that you become familiar with the methods used by scammers and arm yourself against them. Also share the information with your elderly loved ones, your children, and your employees.  Don't be a target.

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference."
We are celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2014!  A big THANK YOU you to our clients & the community for making this possible! 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ex-Spouse Won't Cooperate in House Sale

Sometimes a divorce is finalized but the family home is not sold immediately.   The reasons for this can vary;  the couple wants the home to be maintained for the children, the home is not ready for sale, or the real estate market in the area is changing and the couple is waiting for the optimal time to sell. 

In these cases, the divorce decree should provide specific terms as to who gets what, and there should be language which orders the parties to cooperate with each other. There may be further details about listing the home and accomplishing the sale. 

However, as time goes on, one spouse may become disinclined to cooperate. Sometimes s/he does not really want to sell, does not have the energy to deal with the preparation and sale, or (unfortunately) is holding on for vindictiveness or control.

This can quickly become frustrating for the spouse who is ready to proceed now, especially if the non-cooperation has a negative financial impact and appears to be for no good reason.

A family law attorney can help get the situation "unstuck" by representing the party who is ready to proceed.   Steps that can be taken to get things moving include; 1) Contact with the reluctant party to inform him/her that further legal action will be taken if no cooperation is shown; 2) mediation with a certified mediator to iron out problems or details which have arisen; 3) the filing of a court action requesting enforcement of the decree. 

If the divorce was granted many years ago, the decree may not be as specific as the newer decrees which have been written in the last 10 years or so.  A request can be made to the court for clarification of the language. 

These situations can become long-term frustrating problems.   Having a consult with a family law attorney can help you clarify your options and figure out how to get the ball rolling. 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference."
We are celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2014!  A big THANK YOU you to our clients & the community for making this possible!