Saturday, February 26, 2011

Completing Your Child's Foreign Adoption in Texas

When a family returns to the United States with their child who was adopted in another country, there are often additional steps to be taken.  

When a Texas resident adopts a child from another country, that adoption is governed by Texas law, United States law, international adoption law and treaties, and the law of the country where the adoption took place.  In addition, the area of adoption law has been changing rapidly for the past several years, so the requirements or recommendations will not be the same for everyone.    For instance, a child adopted in China in 2009 may have a very different legal situation than a child who was adopted in Guatemala in 2000.

 

There is a lot of confusion between “readoption” and “reaffirmation”, although the words are often used interchangeably.   Whether the more detailed “readoption” or the relatively simple “reaffirmation” (recognition) of the adoption is required is ultimately determined by the paperwork and facts in each situation, by the Texas County in which the suit is filed, and even by the individual Texas judge’s requirements for his/her court.

 

People often ask if they “must” do anything further.  If there are additional requirements that must be met to insure legal status with U.S. immigration, the answer is “yes”.  In some situations, not following through could cause an “uncertain” or “undocumented” status when the child reaches 18.  (Please note:  If a child became 18 prior to February 27, 2001, when the Child Citizenship Act came into effect, that child was not granted “automatic” U.S. Citizenship. If you or your child came in prior to February 27, 2001 and never took final steps with US Immigration, you should investigate or seek a legal consult to see what options are available to remedy this situation.)

Although it may not be legally required for a child who has been granted US citizenship to take the additional step of having the foreign adoption reaffirmed in Texas state court, it is always a good idea.  After the judge signs the order, a U.S. (Texas) birth certificate with the child’s name and both parents’ name on it can be obtained.  The judge can also grant a name change when necessary.  Taking care of these details will assist the parents and child with documentation issues when registering for school, getting a driver’s license, applying for employment, or applying for college, scholarships and financial aid and is the “final step” in a long, successful adoption journey!

 

The Kalish Law Office has been representing clients in domestic and foriegn adoptions for over 20 years. www.kalishlawtexas.com   281-363-3700

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Five Ways to Save Money on Legal Fees

So, it's finally happened. You have no choice; you have to consult with a lawyer. Everyone knows legal fees can be expensive, but what everyone doesn't know is that there are ways to save money on legal fees.

•1. Get a consultation. A good legal consultation is essential and well worth paying for. This 30 -60 minute block of time is going to help you decide the course of your entire legal situation. This is your chance to ask questions, get information, and evaluate the lawyer and law firm. In short, you are going to be a thirsty sponge, soaking up all the information you can get, and using it to make intelligent, informed decisions

•2. Organize yourself. Take notes, snap pictures, keep a diary, separate papers by subject and date into folders. Make a summary of events. The more information that you condense for use by yourself and your lawyer, the better chance of success. Your intelligent "summaries" will help save you legal fees. Don't ever give your lawyer unorganized "shoeboxes" full of junk to wade through. Organize it yourself, you'll save legal fees.

•3. Don't give tons of unnecessary information. Trying to help, clients may give reams of paper or stacks of disks that are irrelevant and unrequested. The lawyer will spend many billable hours reviewing information that isn't necessary and then will have to charge for his/her time. The same goes for repetitive information given by email or phone.

•4. Do for yourself when you can. In some cases, you may not have to "retain" a lawyer to handle something, but may choose instead to visit the attorney periodically for assistance in handling the matter yourself. (Example: taking your own case to small claims court, negotiating changes in a contract you have been given, or collecting a judgment you've won). Even if you have retained a lawyer, try to complete paperwork on your own first, rather than spending billable hours reading it for the first time while your lawyer sits and watches you. Make a "working copy" for yourself, and a "clean copy" that you can use in case you have to meet with your lawyer again.

•5. Don't "do for yourself" when it makes the situation worse. We've all heard the expression "pay me now or pay me more later" (I've had a plumber and an auto mechanic tell me this- it was true). It can apply in a legal situation. There are certain times when you absolutely should not be handling your own case. (Example: when you have to file documents with the court that you don't have the training to prepare, when a lot of money or emotional well-being is at stake, and when you are too emotional or exhausted to do yourself justice.) There is a reason for the phrase "The lawyer who handles his own case has a fool for a client". We even hire each other when we have to! Recognize those times and hire a lawyer before damage is done.

Following these few guidelines can significantly reduce the amount of money spent in legal fees!

Kalish Law Office has been representing businesses and families for over 26 years.  www.kalishlawtexas.com       281-363-3700

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

PItfalls to Avoid When Splitting Assets in a Divorce

It is easy to focus on just one piece of the puzzle, such as who will get the house or who will have to pay a particular bill.  Don’t do this.  It is important to look at the entire picture.  It may be better to let your spouse have the house if you really will not be able to afford to stay there.   Even if you want to keep the house for the sake of your children, you don’t want them to feel the stress of your struggles to maintain it for the next several years.  

Sometimes it is difficult to make a “business decision” due to the emotion of the situation.  That is why it is important to work closely with your attorney and listen to his/her suggestions. Putting things on paper where you can see them may help. You and your attorney may decide to put together an inventory to show assets and liabilities of the marriage, and a proposal showing which spouse should receive each asset or debt.

 

There may be a temptation to focus on cash flow in the short term and being unrealistic about long term possibilities.  It may be tempting to use account funds or home equity to pay off bills immediately for the feeling of a fresh start, but that may not make the best financial sense.  You might be tempted to consider paying more child support or debts that you will realistically be able to afford, just to “get it over with”.  But decisions made in haste or desperation are often the worst ones, and you could end up mentally kicking yourself for years.


While being too lenient is not a good idea, neither is being too tough.  If you find yourself getting so caught up in the battle that you are determined to win at all costs you need to stop. Ask yourself whether your stance is costing you more in attorney’s fees and time than you are likely to gain, or whether your determination is hurting your children emotionally or harming your health.

 

During a divorce, schedules are disrupted and emotions run high.  It is more important than ever to take good care of yourself physically.  If that seems like impossibility, even a ten-minute break everyday where you clear your mind or do something you really enjoy can be helpful.   Consider the time spent taking care of your health as an investment in your future happiness.  

A good working relationship with your lawyer is necessary and can help you keep things in perspective. Having a support system of friends and family that will allow you to vent when necessary will also help keep you on track.

 

Kalish Law Office has been representing divorce clients since 1984.  "Passionate, Professional and Personal. We Make the Difference."  www.kalishlawtexas.com

Monday, February 14, 2011

Prepare in Advance for The Sale of Your Business

If you are considering selling your business, there are things that you can do to prepare in advance and make the process easier.

It is often very helpful to have a legal consultation early in the process, to guide you in organizing your thoughts and your documents.


If you have a business organization set up already (corporation, partnership, LLP or LLC), you should make sure that the documents that you have filed with the state and the IRS are available and up-to-date. 


You should also consider whether you will need to get the business evaluated, and also be sure that your bookkeeping and taxes are in order. 

Decide what you are willing to sell.  Different aspects of the business may be “split” off from the sale. For instance, if you own the property that the business operates from, you may decide to sell the business itself, but keep the physical location in your name and act as the landlord to the new owner.  You may decide to sell client lists and the system you have developed for making it a success, but you may not want to sell the name or transfer the corporation to the new owner.

 

If you are in a business or profession that has licensure or regulation, you should be sure that you are aware of any limitations and regulations that must be followed to allow a sale and transfer to a new owner.

 

A realistic evaluation of assets, liabilities and future potential of the business will help you to determine a fair price to ask.

 

Once you have things in order, you can begin to advertise or network to gain a potential buyer.  

 

By organizing yourself early, you have a better chance of being ready to move right away if an opportunity should present itself. A business lawyer can help you by guiding you through the process, as well as telling you the documentation that will be needed to take the transaction through sale, to closing and transfer.

 

Kalish Law Office has been representing business owners in buy-sell transactions since 1984.  “Passionate, Professional and Personal. We Make the Difference.”  www.kalishlawtexas.com The Woodlands, Texas


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Three Things to Consider When Deciding Whether to Incorporate

There are three main considerations when deciding whether or not to change the form of your business.  1) Tax benefit; 2) liability protection; and 3) the time-cost analysis of changing your company’s legal status

 

Tax Benefit:

 

Oftentimes the tax benefit analysis is not a “legal question”, but rather an “accounting question”.  If you are unsure of whether you might benefit from a change in your business structure, ask your CPA for more specific information about the different options (incorporation, partnership, LLP or LLC) and what they would mean to you in dollars and cents.

 

Protection:

 

As far as asset protection, the first rule is to always have the appropriate insurance policies!    But even the most careful business owner can find him/herself involved in a lawsuit.   You may not have significant assets right now but be aware if that a judgment is rendered against you it may be collectable several years from now.  So you should not ever take asset protection lightly.

 

If you already have significant assets and your business is doing well it is time to consider taking asset protection to a level beyond the mere purchase of insurance policies. Structuring your business properly will make it a separate legal entity from you.  However, whether or not a business structure protects you and your personal assets depends on the situation, the type of business you are in, and other laws and regulations which apply. You can’t assume that just because you have a corporation or an LLP that you and your assets will be protected in all instances.

 

Time-Cost Analysis:

 

If you are a sole practitioner, you are your business and your business is you. If you form a business corporation, your business will be a separate legal “person.”  You will have additional paperwork to do.  In addition to meeting federal tax requirements, you will have to be sure that your information on file with the state is current, your “entity books” are updated regularly, any required annual statements are filed, and your franchise taxes are paid in a timely manner.   Failure to do these things can result in forfeiture of your status.   We have our clients docket the important dates on their business calendars and return to us yearly for a review and update, usually between Jan and April.

 

Any business entity that is formed must comply with all laws, If you are in a profession which requires a license you will need to be aware of restrictions on what a business may be named, what form of organization may be used, what types of licensed professionals are allowed to practice together, and whether or not an entity may include non-licensed individuals as principals.   

 

If these additional requirements help you save money, protect your assets, grow your business, and stay out of legal trouble, the time that you spend will be well worth it.   

 

Plan Ahead

 

Talk to a business attorney about the types of options available to you.  Explain your current status, your short-term and long-term business and financial goals.  Adequate planning and preparation is the key to success.

 

To get the most out of your consultation, make a list of your goals and a list of your questions. A summary sheet which describes your business (length of operation, industry, owner/partner information, financial status) will also help the attorney in analyzing the situation.  

 

Kalish Law Office has been serving business clients in The Woodlands, Texas and surrounding areas since 1984.  www.kalishlawtexas.com  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What if you Don't WANT Child Support for Your Child?

There are times when a parent may be entitled to collect child support for a child, but still would choose not to do so.   Here is a list of the statements that we usually hear:

 

  1. “I don’t want any child support because my ex is dangerous or a bad influence, and I don’t want him around my child. S/he probably won’t visit if we don’t ask for child support.”
  2. “I can make it on my own; we don’t need his/her money.”
  3. “I don’t want to have to deal with my ex.”
  4. “My ex doesn’t have any money anyway, so why waste the time and legal fees?”
  5. “My ex is unemployed, or self-employed, and we’ll have to chase him/her for the money, so let’s just save the effort.”

Texas law requires that both parents of a child support that child.  Judges are required under Texas law to consider “best interests of the child.”, so it is unlikely that a judge will allow a parent to get away with no child support, even if all the parties agree. 

 

Even if you are able to adequately support your child now, the court will consider the future needs of the child. The reasoning is this:  Even if you don’t want that money, your child can benefit now or later.

 

It is best to try to remove your personal feelings from child support decisions.  Try to look at it as a “business decision”, not as a sign of weakness or a punishment to either party.   Your attorney can assist you in deciding what is reasonable.

If your ex is uncooperative and is unemployed, self-employed, or disabled, it may indeed be more difficult to determine income or collect child support and you’ll need to decide what you are willing to do in order to tackle the problem.

 

If you are able to support your child on your own, one option is to wait until later to pursue unpaid child support, especially if you have legitimate fears about bringing about contact between your child and your ex.  When your child is older, your ex may have changed, and may have the desire to be a stable and involved parent.  (But understand that you are also taking a risk that your ex may be in worse financial or physical shape later on, making it difficult to get the full amount of support that is owed). If you choose to wait, be sure to save all of your documentation and consult with a child support attorney or Texas attorney general’s office far in advance of the time that your child turns 18 and graduates from high school.  

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Filing Suit Against Someone Whose Whereabouts Are Unknown

When a divorce or other lawsuit is filed, there is a process of citation issued for the party who is being sued. Usually, this legal citation is personally served on the person who is the respondent in the lawsuit.  (If the respondent is a company, the citation will be served on the registered agent, director or owner of the company or some else legally authorized to accept the service). This gives legal notice of the suit.

But sometimes a party is nowhere to be found.  What then?

 

These cases can and do proceed.   There are alternative methods of providing service to persons and companies. These alternative methods, if done correctly, provide legal and valid service of the suit so that it can proceed to completion.   The Plaintiff can have his/her day in court even if the other party is unable or unwilling to be found.

If regular service is unsuccessful because of unknown whereabouts (or if someone is avoiding service on purpose), the judge can grant a motion to serve the party in an alternative way, for example by posting or publication.   The judge will want to know what has been done to serve the party in the traditional way, and will require proof of these attempts. 

 

The fact that the case can proceed is good news, however, the case may proceed more slowly, or require additional expenses (depending on the type case it is).

 

If you must file a suit against someone whose whereabouts are unknown, be sure to collect whatever information that you do have. You will need to show that you have made diligent efforts to discover this information.  When working with a lawyer, bring the information to the initial meeting so that the lawyer can assist you with efforts to find the person and tell you what additional steps or expense will be required in your case if the person cannot be found.