Sunday, May 24, 2015

How To Request Your Loved One's Military Records

Memorial Day and Veteran's Day allows us to appreciate and remember those who served our country.

If you are researching your family history and would like to obtain copies of a loved one's service records, here is how to go about it.

1. Request online using eVetRecs if you are next of kin of a deceased former member of the military.  Next of kin can be a surviving spouse that has not remarried, father, mother, son, daughter, sister or brother.  Follow the information relating to the appropriate links (depends on the year of discharge and whether the records are 62 years old or older).

2. If you are not a next of kin, you will use Standard Form 180 or write a letter. This option will be used by persons doing family history research that are not next of kin, other scholarly research or for any other reason.  Information on the form or letter requirements are available at the National Archives site. 

Unfortunately there was a huge fire in 1973 that destroyed 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files.  85% of the records of Army personnel that were discharged between November 1, 1912 and January 1, 1960 and 75% of the records of Air Force personnel with last names after 'Hubbard, James E.' that were discharged September 25, 1947 to January 1, 1964 were destroyed.

However, even if your service member's records fall within these parameters, there may still be some information available for you to have that can enrich your family history or research.

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

Monday, May 18, 2015

Adoption and the Red Thread

When a baby is born there is a red thread that connects him/her to all the people who will play part in that baby's life. Over time, the thread will shorten and tighten, leaving the child with the people that s/he is meant to be with.   -Chinese Proverb

The proverb above is often quoted by those in the international adoption community, but it can apply just as easily to domestic adoption and step-families as well as traditional and non-traditional families.

If you would like to know more about adoption because you are interested in adopting, want to volunteer or work in the field, or just want to learn something new and interesting, here are some resources:

  1. "The Red Thread" by Ann Hood (c) 2010, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. This is a fiction book about a group of people who go through the process of adopting from China together.  An excellent and interesting story, it is realistic and informative as well.  The author has adopted a daughter from China and based this work of fiction on her experiences. 
  2. "Inside the Adoption Agency; Understanding Intercountry Adoption in the Era of the Hague Convention" (c) 2007 Universe, Inc. by Jean Nelson Erichsen, M.A., L.B.S.W. This is a non-fiction book.  Jean N. Erichsen co-founded & co-directed Los Ninos International Adoption Agency, an agency which operated from 1981-2009 here in The Woodlands, Texas. At the time the book was written, the international adoption process was undergoing massive change due to the Hague Convention. The laws have continued to evolve since that time, but the book is still worth reading because her heartwarming account from "inside" is fascinating and it is a good introduction to the Hague process. 
  3. For Children: "A Mother for Choco" An excellent and beautiful picture book for children. 
  4. The U.S. Department of State Webpage on Intercountry Adoption-  International Adoption information from the Bureau of Consular Affairs - U.S. Department of State. This page contains latest news about visa processing, travel warnings, and country-by-country information. 
  5. National Council for Adoption (NCFA) adoption resources and advocacy. You can sign up for a newsletter here, sign up for seminars, or learn where to volunteer.
  6.  About foster care and domestic adoption, in connection with the U.S. Children's Bureau.  Resources to help you find U.S. children available for adoption, statistics and information about adoption and foster care.
There are many, many more resources, books, and websites.   Please feel free to comment with some of your favorites!  (All comments will be reviewed prior to posting). 

We have been attorneys for both the international and domestic (U.S.) adoptions for over 30 years. 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference."
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Monday, May 11, 2015

Bonuses, Commissions and Other "Tricky Splits" in Divorce

If you are getting a divorce, and you or your spouse earns bonuses or commissions, be aware that these are assets that will need to be revealed in the divorce and may be split between the parties.

Once the divorce is begun information will be shared between the parties and their attorneys about the debts and the assets of the marriage. If either party has separate property, that will be addressed as well.  When it comes to retirement benefits, it will be important to know when the benefits began to accrue, and when the marriage occurred. If the benefits began to accrue before the marriage, then some of the benefits can be separate property.   Formulae exist for determining which which portion of the retirement funds may be divisible on divorce.   

Bonuses and commissions can be a difficult area because they tend to vary in amount from month to month or year to year. The basis for awarding them, or the actual "date earned" may not be immediately clear, and they may not be a sure thing. Determining a split, (if any), can be tricky.  It can also be difficult to determine how they should affect child support amounts. 

In addition, there are some types of property that are not divisible on divorce. (Two examples are: Social Security Benefits and Veteran's Administration Benefits). Certain other governmental benefits such as Railroad Retirement Benefits/Annuities have specific laws and guidelines that must be followed and are different from any other types of plan.

If you are divorcing, or if a divorce is a possibility in the near future, you cannot just assume that everything will be split down the middle.   Be sure to reveal information about bonuses and commissions (current and future) to your divorce attorney.  Also give very specific information about any retirement benefits, annuities and plans that are possessed by you and your spouse. 

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

International Family Law & Probate Law Not Simple

Whenever a case involves international law, it is wise to decide at the very beginning what needs to be done. 

For instance, some divorce cases involve two or more countries. Legal actions taken in the U.S. may or may not have an effect in the foreign country (or may have an effect that you didn't want to happen!).

International family law is not uniform. there are many treaties that apply, but not all countries sign those treaties. so the law about divorce, adoption, or custody may need to be researched very thoroughly at the beginning of a case to avoid surprises.  

It is possible to have a divorce that is accepted in the U.S. but not in the home country.  

Probating foreign property (or probating U.S. property of a foreign national) can require extra steps and knowledge.

When it comes to divorce, adoption, custody, and some probate cases it is often advisable to have an attorney in the other country as well as in the US. at least for consultation as the case is proceeding. AND choose a local attorney who has knowledge and experience in this area. 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, April 27, 2015

Mediation and the Abusive Relationship

You may have been told that your divorce case will require mediation. if you have been in an abusive marriage, you may feel especially nervous about facing your spouse since mediation is less formal than a courtroom.

It is common to feel a little nervous, and also to feel worried that you may give in too easily.  You and your attorney should discuss in advance how to handle the situation -  what to do if you need a few minutes to gather your thoughts, and what to do if things begin to get heated.

A trained mediator will also be ready to respond to these types of concerns. For instance, in mediation, the parties are sometimes sent into different rooms or even physically kept apart for the entire mediation. 

There are many kinds of abuse and intimidation. You should be honest with yourself and your attorney about your concerns for your safety, and your ability to think clearly in the mediation setting. 

If your situation has involved domestic violence or there is another reason to fear for the safety of yourself and the others involved, the judge may need to be informed and additional safety precautions may need to be taken.
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.

Monday, April 20, 2015

No One is an Island

There's an old saying that "no [man] is an island". We are fortunately or unfortunately connected to those around us and they are affected by what we do. Especially in the case of two parents quarreling and affecting the children, in the case of employers making decisions that affect their customers and employees, and in the case of two neighbors fighting over property rights. Most of the time when people take the time to think about it they realize that their actions have sometimes serious consequences on those around them.  They may not even realize it until there is an emergency.

Anytime there is a serious legal conflict stress is high. It is very easy for everyone to get into their respective corners and refuse to budge or to admit that they made a bad decision.  However, being willing to admit that to yourself and discuss it with your lawyer or a mediator is a good step towards resolving an escalating conflict and saving time and money.

One of the reasons that mediation works well is that it encourages parties to a conflict to "slow down" and try to resolve issues. Compromise and creative solutions are strongly encouraged, not seen as signs of weakness.  AND the procedure is confidential.

Refusing to back down no matter what the financial and emotional cost is a hard way to go.  There may be a few situations in which that stance is absolutely necessary, but there are also a lot of times where that stand leaves no winners. 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, April 13, 2015

When Divorcing Spouses are Also Business Partners

Divorce is hard enough  and the financial aspects can feel overwhelming, especially if one spouse will have to find a different source of income.  Some businesses can become “like families” and the divorcing couple may bear the additional worry of how their split will affect the employees and customers.

It can be difficult to decide how to divide a business in such a way that meets the needs of the divorcing partners (and their children, if any) and also allows the business to continue to operate profitably.
Some things to consider when deciding how to divide the business (in a community property state, such as Texas) are as follows: 
  1. Is the business separate property or does it include any separate property?   Did one spouse own the business prior to marriage?  If so, for how long?  How did the value of the business change during the marriage?
  2. Is one spouse more qualified to run the business than the other? (Some businesses may require certain licensing or certifications that only one spouse possesses, or may be dependent on one person’s image, reputation or personality.)
  3. What is the true valuation of the business?  What is it really worth?  How does this fit into the “big picture” of what the marital estate is worth overall?
  4. Are there issues regarding the structure of this business that need to be updated? (There may be formal changes that need to be made in the corporate or partnership structure and paperwork that will be required to be filed at the state level).
  5. What are the tax ramifications?
  6. Is collaborative law a better way to divorce in this situation? 

A divorce that divides a family and a business does have an additional level of complexity.  It is important understand your rights and responsibilities and to find a competent family and business law attorney who has the experience, knowledge and skill to make the process as understandable and efficient as possible.

 Kalish Law Office - Family Law - The Woodlands, Texas 

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