Sunday, July 17, 2016

Mediation is Required in your Divorce Case- Good News or Hassle?

In many family law cases, the parties may be required to attend mediation prior to being heard by the judge.  Sometimes this news is met with a sigh of annoyance... just one more barrier to getting a "day in court" or "getting this divorce finished."

You may feel better about it if  you consider the reasons for mediation.

Reasons:

  1. Clarify the issues-  in most divorce cases, there is a laundry list of issues. But rarely do the parties disagree on every single issue with the same level of insistence.  For instance, they may completely disagree on where the child will live, completely agree about who gets the house, and feel neutral about who gets the living room furniture.   Mediation can help by clarifying which issues are disputed and which are not. 
  2. Allow some control-  If you and your spouse agree on how to split an asset then the decision is yours. You know what is what, rather than taking a chance in court. 
  3. Create a chance for compromise- Compromise is encouraged in mediation and is seen as a practical decision, not as a weakness. 
  4. Make it emotionally easier on the parties and children- A disputed trial with angry participants is no one's idea of a good time.   Saving all of the family members from that experience and its resulting emotional strain is one of the pluses of mediation. 
  5. Potential savings of time and money- In some cases mediation saves time and money because it can be less time-consuming for the parties and their attorneys. 
  6. Save the Court's time- Dockets are full in the family law courts. It makes sense for parties to settle what they can outside the courtroom. If going to court is necessary, it is important to bring only the issues which really require the judge's consideration. 
  7. Teach the parties to make decisions together- This is a new phase in life.   But if the parties have minor children together, it will be necessary to work together in raising them. This is a good way to start. 
  8. Set a good example for the children- Even if the children are too young to be told what is happening they will benefit from having parents who can make decisions together. 
  9. Get your point across with respect- Name-calling, shouting, threats and disrespect are not allowed in mediation.  This means that each person has an opportunity to talk (and listen) calmly. 
  10. Even if it doesn't work... Even if the case isn't settled, the parties and their attorneys usually walk away from the session with a better understanding of what each party wants, why they want it, and which issues are most important to each spouse. 


Family Law, Divorce, Child Support, Custody

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, July 11, 2016

Are you READY for an EMERGENCY?



Recently, I was privileged to attend a luncheon regarding Emergency Preparedness sponsored by Interfaith of The Woodlands and The Woodlands Township.

Here are some important and practical tips:
  1. www.readyhoustontx.gov is full of information and videos to help you prepare your home, family and business. Interesting and informative videos are available. 
  2. There are mobile apps that help to keep you informed.  One can be seen at the ReadyHoustonTx site mentioned above, and FEMA also has an app. Or you can check the Google Play or Apple Apps store. 
  3. For local news and weather in Montgomery County, you can listen to KSTAR radio (Conroe). If you live outside a major metropolitan area, learn which station is likely to have the most relevant reports for your area. 
  4. If you have special needs or are elderly and are likely to be on your own in the event of an evacuation, you can call 211 to register for help. 
  5. Persons who are elderly and/or have special needs may want to consider having a Knox lockbox on the outside of their home. Rescue personnel can use this to retrieve a key in order to enter the home in the event of an emergency. 
  6. Consider putting your important documents in a waterproof bag in an easily accessible location for emergency evacuation. 
  7. Keep emergency supplies, food, water and medication on hand, for yourself, family and pets. Also keep batteries and other emergency items and check and rotate them at least once a year. 
  8. Make a family meeting place in case of emergency or evacuation and establish a way to communicate with each other, including having a trusted contact who lives outside the area. 
  9.  Sign up for emergency alerts. (as of this writing, emergency alerts are changing! If you have already signed up for CodeRed weather alerts to your phone, you will need to sign up again by October 2016 because the alert system is changing.  The 911 system is in the process of upgrading too).
  10. Your local fire stations, homeowners associations, and city government may have additional meetings, resources, videos and supplies that are available to you for free in order to help you prepare for an emergency. 

Family Law, Wills, Business Law

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, July 4, 2016

I no Longer Represent You....




Some legal situations have a clear start, and a clear finish.   For instance, a deal is proposed between two people, negotiations happen, a contract is drawn up, then revised, then signed.  The deal proceeds and the event is concluded. Everyone goes on with their lives.   A good example of this is a home purchase.  Closing occurs, money exchanges hands, new deeds are filed. The new people move in. All done.

But this is not always the case. There can be lingering or ongoing issues, or new issues that arise. This can happen over the course of days, weeks, months, years, or decades.

If you had an attorney representing you, it is important to know that representation does not continue forever.  (There are certain exceptions, such as when a business client pays a monthly retainer, or a contract with the lawyer specifically states that the attorney will remain employed for a specific period or series of events).

Generally, once the case is closed, it is closed. The attorney does not actively  continue to represent you.  S/he does not have the obligation or the authority to speak for you forever nor to handle new situations from the old case that occur after the case is closed, unless the two of you contract for these new services.

Therefore, when new aspects of your old case occur it is important that you, personally, get in direct contact with your attorney to be certain that everyone is completely clear on representation and responsibilities.  Don't just leave a voice message or email and assume that the lawyer will jump back into the situation.

Payment to your attorney for legal services is one issue.  There are other issues as well. It is very important to understand who is going to follow up (you or the lawyer).  If there is a deadline in the (new/reopened) case, a request for information from another lawyer, a court hearing, or negotiations your (former) attorney cannot speak for you, sign for you or negotiate anything for you if s/he is not specifically authorized to do so.   Unless and until you and your former lawyer agree that you will be working together in the new case, you are not represented by legal counsel and his/her hands are tied.

A former client who has become used to having a quick response when involved in an active case may not realize that they can't  just take up where they left off  a few weeks, months or years ago.

The attorney will need to speak with you, get information on the new and changed circumstances and you will need to re-engage the attorney's services.

If a legal case that you had becomes active again, or a related case arises out of the old case, you may want to hire your former attorney again.  When clients tell us that they want to hire us again, we feel honored and proud!    We also need to insist that we handle it professionally by creating a new and updated contract and  a new file.


Family Law, Wills, Business Law

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, June 27, 2016

How to Harm Your Chances of Getting Custody of Your Children



Fighting for custody is a heartrending, exhausting, and sorrowful experience. No matter what the results, it is hard on everyone.  In fact, people become so completely emotional and exhausted that they are not on their best behavior. If there is a time to be on your best behavior, it is while you are asking for custody.

Here are some of the top mistakes that people make when involved in a custody fight:


  1. Speaking poorly of the other parent in front of or to the children.    Remember when your mother used to tell you, "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all"?  Well, now is the time to put that into practice.   Note: there is a difference between giving your children information to keep them safe ("call me right away if mommy says she is going to leave you alone at night) and saying things that you shouldn't ("You know that your mommy's friends are more important to her than anything in the world, she doesn't deserve you.")
  2. Not watching their own behavior.   Watch what you say and do, and who you hang out with. Yes, this includes your online life. 
  3. Not telling their lawyer everything.  Even if it is embarrassing, even if you wish it hadn't happened, even if you can't understand why she keeps asking you about that....
  4. Being angry, bitter, or hateful.  Even if you have every reason in the world to be angry... don't let it poison your life, your children's life, or the judge's perception of you. 
  5. Putting the kids in the middle.  Don't ask your kids to take sides. Don't discuss things that you shouldn't discuss with your kids. Don't. Just Don't. 
Easy to say, not always easy to do... but worth doing. 

Family Law, Divorce, Custody, Visitation
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.