Monday, December 30, 2013

Bill Supporting Foreign Adoption in Congress

A bipartisan effort to boost foreign adoption is in Congress. The bill is titled the "Children in Families First Act" and different versions of the bill are now in the House and Senate!

Foreign adoptions are governed by many different areas of law---- international law, the laws of the two or more countries that are involved in a specific adoption,  state law and immigration law. International adoptions are procedure-intensive.

One of the main issues dealt with by the Children in Families First Act is the creation of a new bureau to deal with international child welfare.  Other decisions to be made include which agency/department will process the international adoptions.

Many changes in laws have occurred during the past 8 years that make international adoptions more costly and difficult than they used to be.   There has been a steady decline in international adoptions over the past few years.  We at Kalish Law Office have been involved in international adoption for nearly thirty years and are proud to have been a part of the history of so many families.

For an excellent Houston Chronicle article published on this subject on December 26, 2013, click here.

Monday, December 23, 2013

What's Your New Year's Resolution?

According to Time Magazine Lists, the following are the "10 Most Commonly Broken New Year's Resolutions"

  1. Lose weight and get fit
  2. Quit Smoking
  3. Learn something new
  4. Eat healthier and diet
  5. Get out of debt and save money
  6. Spend more time with family
  7. Travel to new places
  8. Be less stressed
  9. Volunteer
  10. Drink Less
What are your New Year's Resolutions, if any?  

Whenever a New Year rolls around, it is natural to spend time reviewing goals and to think of the New Year as a "clean slate".      Sharing your goals and aspirations with friends and family can help you stay on target.  Also, be realistic in the goals you set and give yourself credit for the progress that you make.

As you make your list of resolutions and your "to do" list for the coming year, here is how Kalish Law Office can help you:

  1. Help you with your Last Will and Testament, Trusts or other planning
  2. Help you start a new business or incorporate your current one
  3. Assist you with understanding or modifying your custody, child support, or visitation orders
  4. Draft powers of attorney for business and health care
  5. Help you understand the legal aspects of domestic, foreign or stepparent adoption
  6. Draft contracts between your and your partner
Kalish Law Office wishes you a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year!

Kalish Law Office - The Woodlands, Texas 

In 2014, we are celebrating 30 years of business!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Holiday Visitation? Read Your Decree!

Over the holidays, it is not unusual for disputes to arise over visitation times between co-parents.   Holidays are stressful times in general.  Families today are more varied, more mobile, and more complicated that they were years ago.

It can be easy to escalate from annoyance to anger when your ex seems to be demanding and unconcerned with your plans for the holidays.

A few tips to minimize the discomfort:

  1. Look at your divorce/parenting decree before the holidays so that you know which dates you are entitled to have this year;
  2. If you need to change the written plan, ask in advance;
  3. Make requests/changes in writing (some decrees require it).  Even if not required it is helpful and courteous to do so, even if you have worked it out verbally and avoid misunderstanding ("I'll send you an email with those dates so that we can both put it on our calendars.");
  4. Understand that your ex may only be trying to get his/her family together in one place, or make sure that your child does not get left out of any holiday fun;
  5. Don't make your child feel he or she is "in the middle".
  6. If your ex is trying to annoy you or start trouble, don't rise to the bait.   Stick to your well-organized plan. 
  7. If you must say "no" and hold your ground, do so in as mature a manner as possible and explain to your child in a practical and compassionate way. ("I'm sorry that your (mom/dad) is upset but its important that you spend some time with your grandparents and cousins during this holiday so we can't make the last-minute change.").
  8. If your ex is trying to create trouble and you foresee legal action in the future, keep a written log of the issues, dates and times;
  9. If there is any danger to your children, act to protect them and do not wait until after the holidays (your child is taken away by force, someone is drinking and then driving your child, illegal drugs are being used around your children or their caretakers are impaired.);
  10. Learn from this year. How can you make things less stressful next year?  "Note to self!"

Celebrating 30 years in 2014!! 

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Legal Protections of Marriage Not Readily Available for Some Couples in Texas (Part II of II)

In last week's blog, we discussed the difficulties that are faced by some couples who are in a marriage relationship but did not have a legally recognized ceremonial marriage.   That blog discussed "common law" marriage in Texas.  The blog also detailed some situations in which the partners may not even know for certain whether or not they are "common law married".

This blog will discuss another situation in which the law is not always clear-cut, and does not offer the same protections to all: Same-sex couples in a long-term, committed relationship.

Although I am well aware that Texas law does not recognize same-sex marriage, for the sake of clarity I will use the term "marital relationship" to apply to a same-sex couple committed to each other, and behaving "as if" they are legally married. 

Some very interesting law school exam questions and bar exam questions are surely written about the "conflicts of laws" questions.   Consider this, same-sex couples are legally able to be married in some states, have domestic partner status in others, and have no legal relationship to each other in other states. Federal law allows same-sex couples who have been legally married in jurisdictions that recognize same-sex marriage to file "married".

Since all jurisdictions are not "on the same page", there have been plenty of confusing situations. For instance, how does a couple that has been legally married get a divorce if they live in a state that does not permit same-sex divorce?   This, and other questions are going through the court systems as I write.  We'll just have to wait and see what 2014 brings.  

But, back to the here and now and the things we can do something about.  Just like the heterosexual couples in last week's blog, same-sex couples in Texas need to be aware of their legal options and the things that can happen.   

Here are the most common situations in which questions/issues may occur for a same-sex couple in a marital relationship, and where it is important to plan ahead: 
  1. The couple is purchasing property together, or co-owns property or accounts;
  2. The couple is separating and realize that they don't know how to legally split their property;
  3. One person is ill and unable to speak for him/herself and the other partner needs to have legal authority to do so;
  4. One person dies and the surviving partner needs to have legal title to joint assets or needs to be able to inherit them (especially if challenged by others).
  5. Anytime children are involved.  (adoption, visitation, support, authority to seek medical care, authority to attend school activities or be an emergency contact, seeking of parental rights for one of the partners, pre-birth arrangements such as sperm donor contracts or gestational agreements).
It is important for each person in a relationship to know and understand his or her legal status and where he or she stands in relation to property ownership and other rights.   No one should devote years to a relationship, help accumulate property, and worry about being left penniless if their partner dies, nor should partners have to worry about proving their legal relationship to each other during a catastrophic illness.

There are ways for same-sex couples to co-own property, create a family, designate each other as having legal authority, and bequeath each other their property.   It is important for all couples to visit these issues, but it is especially important for same-sex couples since the state law does not provide the same protections that opposite sex couples often take for granted. 

- Laura Kalish 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Legal Protection of Marriage Relationship Not Readily Available for Some Couples! (Part I of II)

Persons who are married have certain legal rights and protections that they don't even think about.
However, there are other couples who have long-term, committed relationships who have things a bit more difficult.

Persons who are involved in a marriage relationship without a ceremonial marriage

In Texas, common law marriage is recognized. There are many couples who consider themselves married, but who have not gone through the traditional "legal" ceremonial marriage.  Any of the following situations could apply; 

  1. The couple has filed a formal and legally binding declaration of marriage at a county clerk's office; 
  2. The couple has signed a document between themselves that states that they intend to be legally married, but the document is not written formally, or is not filed with a governmental authority;
  3. The couple decided verbally to be "married", committed to each other privately, or had a "ceremony" without a marriage license;
  4. The couple just gradually "fell into" the marriage relationship, by living together long term and gradually beginning to refer to each other as "husband", "wife" or "spouse", without really making a specific decision at a certain time. 
  5. The couple had a religious ceremony that was not sanctioned by the state, especially one that was in another state or country.
In Texas, the couple in #1, above does have the legal protection of marriage. The other couples may as well, but they may be called upon to "prove" it in certain situations.  The situation in #4, above, is the most difficult one, especially if one of the partners decides that s/he no longer wants to be in the relationship and there is a potential property dispute. 

Here are the most common situations in which questions may occur:
  1. The couple is purchasing property together, or co-owns property or accounts;
  2. The couple is separating and realized that they don't know whether or not they need to file for a divorce or just split;
  3. One person is ill and unable to speak for him/herself and the "spouse" of the healthy partner is uncertain;
  4. One person dies and the surviving partner is not sure of his/her legal status as a surviving spouse (especially if challenged by other family members).
  5. Anytime children are involved.  There are a variety of situations in which having children may cause the question to arise of whether or not the couple is "married", such as paternity issues, seeking state aid or financial aid and so on. In addition, a couple that is splitting up and needs to have court orders for the children will need to decide whether a divorce case or a "suit affecting parent-child relationship" is the appropriate case to file in court. 
  6. One of the partners goes out and legally marries someone else without legally "dissolving" the previous relationship.
These situations can produce some of the most legally challenging issues. Plenty of law school examination questions have been written about situations just like these.   

It is important for each person in a relationship to know and understand his or her legal status and where he or she stands in relation to property ownership and other rights.   No one should devote years to a relationship, help accumulate property, and worry about being left penniless if their partner dies, nor should partners have to worry about proving their legal relationship to each other during a catastrophic illness.

An attorney can help in the following ways:

  1. Help a partner understand his/her legal standing and whether they would be considered legally married;
  2. Help the partner(s) form a contract for the purchase and ownership of property when necessary;
  3. Help the partner(s) with an agreement detailing the sharing or splitting of their assets and debts while they are together;
  4. Help the partner(s) understand their legal rights and property ownership if they are about to split up;
  5. Draft powers of attorney and health care powers of attorney to clarify their rights to others;
  6. Draft wills and trusts to provide for each other in the event of death;
  7. Help the partner(s) understand the various laws and procedures relating to paternity, custody and visitation.
A short legal consultation can help clarify any questions and assure that the parties are protected.

Kalish Law Office: Family law, Wills, and Contracts.  
The Woodlands Texas. Since 1984

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sibling Rivalry and Elder Planning

Planning for an elder parent is difficult enough without old "baggage" showing up.  However, that is often exactly what happens.  The stress and uncertainty of dealing with an elder parent's future can activate old family issues and rivalries that everyone thought were long gone.

Here are some tips to help ease the pain of sibling rivalry when a elderly parent is unable to make a plan for himself/herself or has come to the point where additional help is needed.

  1. When possible, always include your parent in the decision-making process.
  2. Try to be realistic about each siblings strengths and weaknesses, including your own.
  3. Try to put aside hurt feelings and deal with the reality of the situation.
  4. Have a family meeting as soon as possible.  
  5. Get the facts.  This includes seeking medical advice from your parent's doctor when indicated.
  6. Gather a list of your parent's assets and debts.
  7. Seek professional advice.  See an elder planning attorney early in the process.  You can bring your "family meeting" to the lawyer's office so that everyone hears the same information at the same time. For those families spread across a large geographic area, skype or other remote connections may be indicated. 
  8. Choose an attorney who exhibits compassion and concern for your parent, family and the situation.  Don't hesitate to tell the lawyer the entire truth about concerns, fears, and sibling rivalries that may affect the decision-making process.  It is important to consider the whole picture, not just the "business aspects" of this very challenging situation. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Texas Spousal Support

Spousal maintenance in Texas can be ordered if there is a finding of family violence and/or if the couple has been married for ten or more years.

Spousal support does not go on forever, but the duration will be determined by the length of the marriage.  If the couple was married from 10-20 years, the spousal support may be ordered for 5 years.  If they were married from 20-30 years, support may be ordered for 7 years.

The spouse receiving the support can be awarded up to 20% of the payor's gross income.

Spousal support is not automatic, and the spouse seeking this support must show the judge that the support is reasonable and fair in the circumstances.

A Texas Family Law attorney can help you evaluate your case to determine if you might be entitled to spousal support.

Kalish Law Office - The Woodlands Texas Helping clients with spousal support issues and other family law issues since 1984!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Employers: What Questions Should Not be Asked in A Job Interview?

Employers: This is for you!

There are some questions that are legally impermissible to ask in a job interview.   Some questions are obviously impermissible, others are more "subtle".

Examples of  improper questions:

  1. How old are you?  
  2. Will you require us to give you time off for certain religious holidays?
  3. Are you married?
  4. Do you have children? 
  5. Will you be able to work when school districts give children time off school?
  6. Are you pregnant?
  7. Are you a U.S. Citizen?
  8. How much do you weigh? 
  9. Have you ever been arrested?
  10. Your last name sounds _______________(Polish, Arabic, Etc.), is it? 
  11. Do you have a disability? 

At the Pre-employment stage you can inquire:

  1. Can you perform the requirements of the job with or without reasonable accomodation?
  2. If you are hired, can you show that you have authority to legally work in the U.S.?
  3. Do you meet the minimum age requirement to work at this job?
  4. What languages do you speak, read, or write fluently? (as it relates to the job requirements and performance)
  5. Whether the person can work the specific hours that the position requires. 
  6. Criminal convictions as they relate to fitness for the job or the job requirements. 
Be certain that any testing, or job requirements at the pre-employment stage are applied to all applicants, not just some. (for instance, asking all applicants for a certain position whether or not they can arrive at the office within 20 minutes (if there is a reasonable work necessity for this) is fine.   Asking this of only applicants that have children is not permissible). 

Remember, the above applies to pre-employment  situations.  Once you hire, you will need to verify their employment eligibility, you can collect certain data and for affirmative action documentation, and you may need to get further medical or disability information as relating to job performance and requirements. 

If you have any doubts as to whether an inquiry is proper, don't ask (or at least don't ask until you do a little research first).  The EEOC website is an excellent resource for employers. 

Kalish Law Office - Business Attorneys - The Woodlands Texas - Since 1984

Monday, October 28, 2013

Texas Department of Insurance Can Help you With Your Insurance Complaint

How can the Texas Department of Insurance help you?

The Texas Department of Insurance ("TDI") can help you resolve insurance complaints such as property, title, health and workers' compensation insurance.   The complaint may cover "claim and benefit disputes, false advertising, misrepresentation and suspected insurance fraud."

If you have a complaint, check out the website  (click here) and you can view more details.(En Español)

There are some types of claims and issues that the TDI does not cover.

How can a private attorney help you with an insurance complaint?

  1. A private attorney can consult with you at the very beginning and help you decide whether the claim is eligible for help from the Texas Department of Insurance;
  2. A private attorney can help you through the process of a filing with the TDI by assisting you with paperwork and helping you prepare for mediation (when applicable);
  3. A private attorney can help you decide whether there are additional issues in the case that are not covered by the Texas Department of Insurance and discuss your options. 
The Texas Department of Insurance is a valuable resource to have.   Seeking assistance from an administrative agency can reduce your legal fees and put the investigative resources of the agency on your side.  

If you desire, a private attorney can evaluate your claim for its strengths and weaknesses and give you guidance on what to expect from the process. You can then use that knowledge to handle your complaint yourself with the TDI. 

Kalish Law Office - Business & Consumer Law - The Woodlands, Texas.  Since 1984

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Binding Mediated Settlement Agreements in Texas Family Law and Child Safety

Texas Law provides for binding mediated settlement agreements in family law cases. The purpose of this is to encourage Alternative Dispute Resolution. (settlement of a case by a method other than going to trial. Mediation and Arbitration are two methods of alternative dispute resolution).

If you go to a family law mediation you may reach an agreement and be asked to sign a Mediated Settlement Agreement.  

The Texas Family Code states in section 153.0071: 
(d) A mediated settlement agreement is binding on the parties if the agreement: (1) provides, in a prominently displayed statement that is in boldfaced type or capital letters or underlined, that the agreement is not subject to revocation; (2) is signed by each party to the agreement; and (3) is signed by the party's attorney, if any, who is present at the time the agreement is signed.

In family cases involving children judges normally inquire broadly about many aspects of the best interests of the children. However, in a case that has a binding mediated settlement agreement the court does not perform the usual broad inquiry. But, if there is domestic violence involved then a normally irrevocable Mediated Settlement Agreement may be overturned.  The intent of Texas law is to encourage settlement, but not at the expense of a child's safety. A recent Texas Supreme Court case has specified that MSAs be handled by trial courts in this way. 

If you go to a mediation in your Texas family law case and you are not in agreement with the offer on the table, don't sign it. Binding MSAs will generally be upheld in front of arbitrators and judges. 

MSAs reduce court time, legal fees and expenses, and prevent "taking a chance" with a judge or jury because you know what you are dealing with and are able to actively participate in crafting the terms.  Be sure to think everything through when you are about to agree to one, and talk to your lawyer about all aspects of how your children may be affected. Extra caution is urged when dealing with custody and visitation issues in situations that may pose a risk of child injury. 

Kalish Law Office Divorce Attorneys The Woodlands Texas 

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Article on "Befriending your Ex" may be a helpful resource

This month's "Divorce Magazine" offers an article on "Befriending your Ex" by Judith  Ruskay Rabinor, PhD.
Although I know that some of you may be shaking your heads right now and thinking, "It will never work in my situation", there are a few reasons why I think this article may still be worth a look.

  1. Things do change with time.   Even for the most stubborn and grudge-holding person, life goes on.  New relationships and less control and connection on a daily basis between two former spouses can work wonders.
  2. Even if one person makes an internal change, it's still a change.  What if your ex is the same old meanie, but you learn not to let it eat you up inside?  Score one for you! 
  3. This article has a lot of good, practical advice.   When NOT to attempt a friendship with your ex (s/he is physically or emotionally abusive, out-of-control or dangerous);   Why you should try it (good for the kids and your own well-being, among other things); and tips for beginning the process slow and easy. 
At Kalish Law Office, we have been representing divorce clients for approximately 30 years!  Attorney Bob Kalish was a psychologist prior to becoming an attorney and was trained in understanding human behavior and response to stress and trauma.  Attorney Sio Ramirez Pitre has been representing divorce clients for several years, and has experience in understanding the legal and practical difficulties of all types of divorce situations. 

Click here for the current issue of the magazine containing the feature article. Credit and thanks to "Divorce Magazine" and Dr. Rabinor! 

Click here for direct links to Attorney Siomara Ramirez Pitre's page and Attorney Bob Kalish's page. 

Kalish Law Office - Representing Divorce & Family Law Clients since 1984.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Power of Attorney or Guardianship?

If you have reason to believe that your loved one may be approaching a time when s/he will not be able to handle his/her own daily life or financial affairs, you may be frightened and confused about your options.

People often (mistakenly) think that there is nothing that can be done unless "things get really bad."  Actually, there is a lot that you can do to plan in advance. 

A guardianship may indeed be the best option for the situation. However, these are not granted automatically and they cost time and money to properly prepare and file.   A court is then involved, and the person who is now the appointed guardian must meet certain requirements under the law.  This is often a very good thing, because it protects the Ward (the person who has the Guardian) and  his/her assets, and gives proper authority to the Guardian.

As an alternative to a guardianship (or a temporary measure before a guardianship), powers of attorney may be what is needed.  A person who is able to understand what s/he is signing may decide to name someone they trust to manage business and personal affairs, and medical and health needs.

A person who is able to understand what s/he is signing may also choose to sign a document that names someone "to be my Guardian if a Guardian is ever needed for me." 

Joint ownership of bank accounts and other assets can also prove to be a good planning tool in some situations. 

Choosing which path is the correct one must be done carefully and with knowledge because these various options can affect income tax liability, ability to receive government benefits, ability to claim a homestead exemption, ability of a judgment creditor to reach assets and other factors.   

A Texas attorney who is familiar with estate planning can assist you in analyzing your situation and deciding on the best course of action.  A consult to make these important decisions is time and money well spent.  If possible, it is a good idea to go to the attorney when everyone is still able to participate in the decision because once a person's condition has advanced to the point where s/he is not able to understand, the choices will be more limited. 
The Woodlands Texas
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." Since 1984

* our 30th Anniversary is in 2014! 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Adoption Council Website a Valuable Resource- check out Children of Trauma article

The National Council for Adoption ("NCFA")  maintains an excellent website with valuable adoption resources and information.  This can be found at 

Every month, the NCFA publishes the "Adoption Advocate".  You can subscribe to this publication by email.  Last month (September 2013) there was an excellent and well-researched article titled, "Children of Trauma, What Educators Need to Know."   Many adopted children have experienced trauma in their lives  in various forms and levels of severity (including mental, physical, emotional, and even prenatal).  This article does an excellent job of outlining the various types of issues in an understandable manner, explaining types of behavior that may occur and offering suggestions for crisis prevention, treatment, and stress management.  

I found the statistics about childhood trauma particularly enlightening.   Adults discussing their own chilldhood experiences have reported that 11% were emotionally abused as children, 30% physically abused, 20% sexually abused, 13% witnessed their mothers being battered, 24 % were exposed to family alcohol abuse, 19% were exposed to family mental illness, and 5% exposed to family drug abuse. 

I highly recommend this article to educators, any parent, (not just adoptive parents) and to any adult who has suffered childhood trauma herself/himself.  Most importantly, the article acknowledges the pain that is involved and offers suggestions to deal with problems with empathy. 

Kalish Law Office -  The Woodlands Texas. Adoption and Family Law Attorneys. Since 1984

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sio's Family Law Tips... All About Parenting Class Requirements

The Texas family code gives courts the specific authority to order  the parties in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship to take a parenting class.  (a divorce with children, custody/visitation case, and paternity case are all examples of suits which affect the parent-child relationship).  The parenting class requirement is found in Texas Family Code Section 105.009.

Over stressed and over-worked parents are sometimes dismayed to find that they must find time to take this course.  A course of this type can be from 4 -12 hours long (Four hours is more typical).  In some Texas courts an approved online course is allowed.  However, be aware that some judges require that the course be taken "live". At the time of writing this blog, the 418th District Court in Montgomery County is requiring live courses. That is the Judge's prerogative.

Purpose of the Parenting Class: 

The course is intended to "educate and assist parents" about the emotional effects of divorce on parents and children, behavioral reactions to divorce in young children & adolescents, parenting issues at different stages of development, stress indicators in children, conflict management, family stabilization & co-parenting, financial responsibilities of parents, family violence & neglect, and availability of community services and resources.  

What if you just don't take the course? What can happen? 

The law specifically states that the court may hold a party in contempt, strike pleadings, rule against the party, and invoke sanctions (this may include monetary sanctions).   The judge can find against the party who refuses to attend which can affect custody, visitation and other issues in the lawsuit.   It is not worth the risk. 

Courts have been known to put a stamp on the pleadings stating "This Court will not enforce this agreement until the parent submits a valid parenting class certificate".  This means that if a parent is denied rights that they are given in that decree (example; visitation) and the parent who has been denied the rights returns to the court and asks for the court's assistance in enforcing his/ her rights, the court will not hold the non-compliant party in contempt. 

Special provisions

If a party cannot afford the class, they can be allowed to take a class that is offered on a sliding fee basis (make sure that particular class is accredited and acceptable to that court).  

If someone has taken a parenting class within five years then they may not have to take it again. (again, make sure this will be acceptable and that the class was accredited in Texas and will count).

Don't wait

If you have been told by your attorney, or the court clerk or the court's paperwork that you must take a parenting class, don't wait until the last minute to do so.   Don't even think about showing up in court and hoping that the subject doesn't come up. It will!

What to do with your certificate

If you are represented by an attorney, give the certificate to your attorney as soon as possible so that it can be placed in your case file in the law office and at the court.  

If you are representing yourself, check with the court where your case is filed to find out if the certificate must be filed before your hearing or if you may bring it with you. 

What people are saying that have taken one of these classes....

Many, if not most, people actually enjoy the class, even if they did not expect to.  Almost everyone takes at least one important thing from the class.... a new way of looking at things, a new idea on what to say to a child, how to better handle stress.   And, these days, who doesn't need a little extra help? 

Kalish Law Office - The Woodlands, Texas  
Family Attorneys,  Wills/ Trusts
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference". Since 1984
We are going to be celebrating our 30th Anniversary in 2014! 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What can Happen to a Person who has a Judgment against them for Unpaid Back Child Support?

Child support obligations are not to be taken lightly.  A person who owes child support and does not pay it can have all types of trouble.  Here is a summary of how the process works, and what can happen if the support goes unpaid and a suit for enforcement is filed, and is successful.

The Process:

  1. Child Support is ordered to be paid by a court.   
  2. The child support is not paid as ordered
  3. The parent/guardian and/or the Texas Attorney/General Child support division files suit for enforcement and gets a judgment for the past-due amounts

Then- what can happen if the person owing the support ("Obligee") does not pay:

  1. A judge can order that the Obligee be confined to jail for a certain amount of time.
  2. Contempt of court
  3. The obligee may not be able to renew his/her license issued by the state and may even lose it (driver's license, professional license, hunting & fishing license)
  4. The interest will compound and it can take many years to pay off.
  5. Negative effect on credit.
  6. Tax refunds confiscated
  7. Psychological and emotional effects on children and on self-image.

Do not take child support obligations lightly!  If you owe child support and are not able to pay the amount that you are ordered to pay, you may be able to get a reduction in the monthly amount you owe for future months.  Talk to a family law attorney about how to seek a reduction if you believe that you may be entitled to one.

Bottom line: this is one of those things in life that you cannot afford to ignore. If you are already involved in this process, a family law attorney may be able to help you work out payments and give you further advice about how to handle this legal process.   Kalish Law Texas - Family & Business Attorneys
The Woodlands Texas.   We are about to celebrate our 30th Anniversary! 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Why it is Important to Answer Discovery in your Case

Unhappy about Discovery requests in your case? Read on to see why it is important to take them seriously...

1. You can't just ignore it- 

You are required by Texas law and procedure to answer discovery when you are involved in an active legal case.  If you are involved in a business lawsuit or a contested divorce, you should be prepared to answer discovery requests in your case.

2. The common types of discovery requests you can expect and why they are important.

Interrogatories are the most common requests.  These are written questions about your case and things that are involved in your case. (If irrelevant questions are asked, your attorney will object to them).  Along with Interrogatories, you may be given Requests for Production,  in which you must produce documents and other things (for example, digital files or photographs).  Depositions  are another common type of discovery, but are not used in every case due to the time and expense involved.

These methods of discovery are important because they allow the sharing of information among the parties.  This information sharing helps the attorneys plan the case, allows each party to get information to which s/he is entitled and might not be voluntarily given, and helps conserve time in court.

3. What will happen if you just ignore the requests? 

You may lose your case! You may be given sanctions  by the court (for example, the judge may order you to pay some attorney fees to your opponent, may "strike" part of your pleadings, negatively affecting your case, or your case could be thrown out altogether.

4. How should you handle discovery requests? 

Read them completely as soon as your lawyer gives you a copy. Begin writing or typing your answers in a rough draft form as soon as possible. Start gathering any documents you need, and organize them into groups.   If you are unsure about what a question means, or whether you are required to answer it, discuss it with your attorney.  Don't hold back important information or neglect to share it with your attorney.   

 Kalish Law Office  Business & Family Law Attorneys in The Woodlands Texas. Since 1984

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference."

Monday, September 9, 2013

Texas Supreme Court to Hear Cases About Same-Sex Divorce

On November 5, 2013, the Texas Supreme Court will hear oral argument about whether Texas can grant divorces for same-sex couples.  Since Texas law currently does not allow any action that "legitimizes" same-sex marriage, the Texas Attorney General argues that granting a same-sex divorce is an action that recognizes same-sex marriage that occurred in another state.

The two couples who are involved in the case were married in Massachusetts several years ago, have since split up, and have been unable to get a finalized divorce in Texas.

The recent IRS ruling recognizing same-sex marriages creates another problem- the couples are now considered "married" for purposes of income tax filing.

The attorney who is representing the couples has stated that they "just want to get on with their lives."

Since the laws involving same-sex marriages vary so widely from state to state and are in a condition of constant change, expect to see more "conflicts of law"  cases like this one.

In the meantime, same-sex couples are advised to know their rights and options in relation to family law, joint property ownership and estate planning and to seek a legal consult when needed.

Kalish Law Texas -  Since 1984 The Woodlands Texas

Interstate Adoption Ain't What it Used to Be... What NOT to do When Adopting Across State Lines

Most of us know personally, or have heard of, someone who was "adopted" informally in the old days.

This used to happen among family members or close friends quite frequently.  A long time ago, people might just agree among themselves for a child to be raised by other family members or close friends, with little or no court involvement.

Adoption from one state to another wasn't always as regulated as it is now.    Today, we have many different levels of adoption law.  There is international law, U.S. law, and state law.   There are inter-country agreements and interstate compacts.

One such agreement, The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children ("ICPC"), requires a specific process that must be followed before a child from one state can be taken to another state for the purpose of adoption. This law also applies when a child is sent to another state for foster care, and for enrollment in some residential facilities.

Failing to follow the proper procedure can result in a Class C Misdemeanor, and/or in an adoption being denied by the courts.

There are a few limited exceptions for placement by family members with other family members, and in these certain situations, the ICPC does not apply.  

If you are thinking of making a placement or accepting a placement of a child over state lines for the purpose of foster care or adoption, make sure that you understand and follow the law about interstate placements.   You are advised to consult with an adoption and family law attorney who can help you avoid problems.

Kalish Law Office - The Woodlands, Texas  Adoption and Family Law Attorneys

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Divorce Lawyer's Practical Tips on Minimizing the Effects of Divorce on Kids!

It is undisputed that divorce has long-term effects on children, such as depression, trust issues, social difficulties and anxiety.  When divorce is necessary, it is important to pay very close attention to how the divorce is affecting the children.

Unfortunately, many people do unintentionally place their children "in the middle".   This can easily happen.   Some comments and questions that are seem harmless to an adult can make a child feel stressed and disloyal.  

Practical Tips for Minimizing the Negative Effect of Divorce on Kids 

By Attorney Siomara Ramirez Pitre 
  1. Watch what you say in front of the kids (even to your best friend, relative or lawyer).  This includes what you say on the telephone when the kids can hear you.  Be ready to tell others, "Not in front of the kids, we'll talk later."
  2. Watch the non-verbal communication.   Facial expressions and body language can radiate anger and disapproval of the other parent. 
  3. Don't ask unnecessary questions about the other parent.   ("Did you have fun at the zoo?" is fine.  "So, what other new things did your dad buy for his apartment?" is not). 
  4. Decide how to approach delicate or emotionally-charged issues with the kids.  If your ex has a substance abuse problem, makes unsafe decisions or hangs out with the wrong crowd, you may have to approach the issue with the kids to be sure they are safe. Don't use it as a personal vendetta. You can get help in dealing with these issues from your family law attorney, therapist, or school counselor. 
  5. Avoid building yourself up to make the other parent look bad, even if you think you are being subtle (you aren't).    For instance, "I don't know about your mother, but I always manage to get off work for your soccer games no matter how busy I am."
  6. Your kids are not your friends or counselors.  Get emotional support if you need it, but don't ever, ever, ask your kids to provide it for you.   No matter how "mature" they are.   Treating a child (even a teenager) as a "best friend", "co-parent" , or "man of the house" is detrimental to the child and is selfish.  And it can be used against you in court. 
  7. Be as honest as you can when you discuss things but be ready to tell them that you can't discuss certain things with them.  
  8. Go slowly with new relationships, be careful with who the kids meet, even when the divorce is final   Kids don't need to meet various people that you date.  If there is a special relationship, then wait to introduce the kids until they have time to adjust to the finality of the divorce.
  9. Discuss the changes that are occurring and use supportive language.  For instance. "I know a lot of things are changing right now. We'll adjust to it together. Let's talk about it." is good.   But "Everything is changing because of our divorce. You have a lot to get used to".  is scary even if it is said in an understanding voice.
  10. Don't ask kids to make major decisions themselves about living situations, schools, and visitation schedules.    Listening to them, and taking their best interests into consideration is good, but don't let them feel that they bear the responsibility for what happens in the divorce. 
It may not be easy to put these tips into practice, but it will be worth it.  In years to come you will be glad that you took the time and energy to put the kids first, even when it was very difficult to do so. 

Kalish Law Office - Divorce and Family Law Attorneys - Since 1984

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Stop Domestic Violence - "It's Never Too Late to Change the Road You're On"

Stop Domestic Violence

Domestic violence hurts, kills, and ruins lives.  The effects are felt for years, generations even.   

Making a change requires determination and a willingness to ask for help.

While traveling in Fort Worth, I happened to see the beautiful artwork above, which is located at Safe Haven of Tarrant County. At Safe Haven, help and resources can be found for dealing with domestic violence.   There are resources available for victims of domestic violence, as well as resources for batterers who are ready to make a fresh start. There are volunteer opportunities and a 24-hour crisis hotline.  
Here in Montgomery County, Texas, the Montgomery County Women's Center works to help families and individuals affected by domestic violence.   

If you, or someone you know is trapped in a cycle of domestic violence, it is not too late to make changes. A family law attorney can assist in getting a restraining order and helping you to understand your legal rights.  Domestic violence happens at all income levels and in many types of relationships. If you are a victim of abuse or control, you may have been told that no one will believe you, that no one will help you and that you are not legally entitled to anything because that is a way that an abuser maintains control.  People who grow up seeing and living with abuse can grow up to be abusers or victims themselves.  It is never too late to break the cycle.   Know your rights.

Kalish Law Office - The Woodlands, Texas- Family lawyers since 1984. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tips to Help you Make a Good Courtroom Appearance

It is normal to be concerned about appearing in court. Whether your case is family law, business, probate or other type case, the way you look and act while you are in court is important, even for just a short procedural hearing.


Signs of respect or disrespect for the court

1.  A neat, clean physical appearance = GOOD (tuck your shirt in when possible, especially for guys)
2.  Refrain from chewing gum!
3.  Don't let your phone ring or chime.
4.  Reading your phone, email, texts or a book or newspaper while proceedings are going on is distracting and disrespectful 
5. A ringing or chiming phone (you may even have your phone taken by the bailiff in some courtrooms!)
6. Don't EVER wear the following, even for a short, "informal" hearing;
  • shorts (not even "dress shorts")
  • tank tops
  • tops that show midriff
  • tshirts with slogans and pictures on them that may be offensive, controversial, or un-businesslike (avoid tshirts altogether if you can, unless you must wear them as part of an appropriate work uniform)
  • Flip-flops
7. Talking in court is not respectful and may earn you a sharp reprimand from the bailiff or judge if you are distracting others.

Behavior Modification

The following are BAD IDEAS
  1. A show of temper while on the stand or in front of the judge (towards the judge, opposing counsel, or your own attorney)
  2. A show of temper anywhere in or near the courtroom 
  3. Using obscenities or obscenity substitutes (everyone knows what you really mean)
  4. Losing your respectful business-like demeanor
  5. Making statements that blame others and don't take responsibility for your own behavior
  6. (for family law cases) Not putting your kids first.
The most frequent courtroom mishap involves showing anger. Raising your voice, sounding bitter, whining, smirking, acting stubborn when asked to answer a question, arguing/debating with one of the attorneys or the judge, employing sarcasm, rolling your eyes or shaking your head -these are all signs of anger AND it can cost you.

REMEMBER- You have a very short time to make your case.   A few minutes of bad behavior in the courtroom can sabotage hours of research and preparation.

Make sure you maintain a professional, polite demeanor in the courtroom, no matter what happens. Inform your attorney if you are worried about how to behave in court and and prepare yourself in advance to deal with your frustration in a constructive way. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Texas Courthouses are Beautiful to Look at and Rich in History

If you are interested in vintage architecture or Texas history, you will be astounded at the beautiful and historic courthouses we have here in Texas. 

Our Texas courthouses have inspired books, websites, blogs and at least public television documentary. 

Leonard G. Lane, a Houston architect, maintains a site called "254 Texas Courthouses".  He tells us that there are 254 counties in Texas and more than 234 courthouses that are over 50 years old. Mr. Lane is in the process of visiting and photographing all of them.   This excellent site contains not only beautiful photos, but interesting information about the architecture and history of each building, and chronicles his connection with other Texas courthouse photographers.  

Another excellent site is  This site is meant to encourage tourism and appreciation of Texas history and has links to other historical buildings, as well as information on what is to be found in the area around each courthouse.   Here is a link to a photo of my favorite courthouse, the Victoria County Courthouse. 

Public television produced and aired a documentary titled, "Texas Courthouses; The Golden Age."  The DVD is available from PBS, on Amazon, and is often sold in the gift shops of Texas historical sites. 

Excellent books on this subject include  "Courthouses of Texas" by Dr. Mavis Kelsey and "Historic Texas Courthouses" by Andrews, Hester & Hardaway. 

Some of the most beautiful courthouses were built between 1881 and 1900.  Inside of these buildings you can see art deco design, rich wooden railings, oaken door frames, marble floors, vintage tile design, Texas limestone,  and other materials and craftsmanship  no longer evident in modern buildings.

In addition to the beauty of the courthouses themselves, the areas surrounding the courthouses often contain murals, artwork, or historical markers.  Here is a photo of a mural which appears on the walkover bridge between two courthouse buildings in Conroe, Montgomery County, Texas. 

photo by Mariana Martinez (c) 2013

Kalish Law Office - The Woodlands, Texas -- Family and Business Lawyers. Since 1984. 

"Passionate, Professional and Personal. We Make the Difference".

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What Happens if an Adoption Does not Work out? (Adoption Dissolution)

The National Council for Adoption has estimated that between 1% and 10% of adoptions result in dissolution.  There is little support available for families in these relatively rare situations.

Adoptive parents considering an adoption dissolution can find themselves facing very strong criticism. Those outside the situation may strenuously voice objection to the very idea, believing that "you are treating an adopted child differently than you would treat a child who was born into your family."

Nonetheless, adoptive parents may have very strong and valid reasons for seeking information about dissolution.  For instance, if serious danger to a parent or other children in the family exists, and the situation is unlikely to improve with medications and therapy.

A family in crisis for these reasons can reach out for help.  Help is available from various sources, such as;

  • the agency that facilitated the adoption (when applicable)
  • other adoption advocacy organizations;  
  • a private attorney who regularly practices in the area of adoption law 
  • state and local resources and organizations 
  • licensed, trained psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers who are familiar with these issues; and 
  • colleges, universities, medical schools and medical centers which have programs and departments specifically dealing with adoption issues and the specific medical or psychological issues that the child has.

Some other options include respite care, where a family and the child get some time away from each other, while specific solutions are sought.

Legal options include giving custody or guardianship of the child to an agency or person(s).   A temporary guardianship may be appropriate in some cases.

Although there are certainly situations in which Child Protective Services should be involved, an adoptive parent who invokes CPS out of frustration and fear may be distressed to find that they are not seen as a "partner" in trying to do the right thing. Once a file is opened, the agency is required by law to take certain steps and to process the case according to specific guidelines and procedures. Although there are times under the law when it is mandatory to involve this agency, it is usually not wise to do so when there are other immediate resources available.

Sometimes a family may believe that there is no hope but once they have a professional (or a team of professionals) working together with them, they find that things can improve.

Dissolution should only be sought when other avenues have failed.

If a dissolution is inevitable, the best possible situation for the child should be sought.  Sometimes it is possible to find another family willing and able to re-adopt the child.  For instance, in some cases a child's past trauma may make it impossible for a child to live comfortably in a home with family members of the opposite (or the same) sex.

A family that has been forced to even consider a dissolution is nearly always in excruciating emotional pain.   It is important that the family members have individuals that they can go to who will not judge them, but assist them with finding a solution.

For an excellent, and detailed article about this subject, see The Adoption Advocate, No. 62, NCFA

Kalish Law Office - Adoption Attorneys - The Woodlands, Texas - Since 1984   "Passionate, Professional and Personal.  We make the difference."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tax Problems of Actor James Gandolfini's Heirs Illustrate Need for Estate Planning

Why go to the trouble of estate planning?

The recent death of Soprano's actor James Gandolfini illustrates the need for careful, individual estate planning.

The actor had a large estate, and he had a will.  But sometimes a will just isn't enough!

In this case, the will WAS enough to make his wishes known, to allow his beneficiaries to know that he cared for them, and to designate how he wanted his property to be divided.   However, it did not account for the one BIG "interested party"... the I.R.S.!

Because of the way that Mr. Gandolfini's will was written, property that he intended to go to the beneficiaries may have to be sold off to pay the tax burden.  The sad thing is, that tax burden could likely have been reduced, with planning. 

How can the I.R.S. end up "the largest beneficiary" when there is not a cohesive, individual estate plan? 

Why then do these situations happen?   There are a variety of reasons.  For example: 
1. the testator (person signing the will)  wants to "keep it simple" and believes a will is good enough;
2. the testator signs a will (better than having nothing!), and plans to do the more complex estate planning later but gets busy and never does it;
3.  the testator does not update his/her will when financial circumstances or federal or state laws change;
4.  the testator does not visit a wills and trust attorney or get adequate legal or financial advice when needed;
5.  people hate to think about death and so continue to put off the planning... for months.. and years...

What can be done to prevent a problem?

First of all, having a will is a good idea... it's a great idea!  And for many people, having a will may be good enough!  BUT for others, taking the time to do additional planning can significantly reduce the tax burden on the estate and therefore, the beneficiaries.  "Giving Uncle Sam his due" doesn't require giving him an added large bonus due to lack of understanding and planning. 

Texas Wills and Estate Planning

We all hope to live long and healthy lives, but unexpected things happen!   It is important to plan in order to minimize the tax burden and provide for your loved ones.  Don't put it off!

Review your will/ estate plan in 2014

Changes in the law are going into effect.  Review your will/ estate plan in 2014.  Make a consultation appointment with your attorney and bring your current documents for review. You may already have exactly what you need. If not, you can make the necessary changes and avoid problems later. 

Kalish Law Office - Wills and Estate Planning Attorneys - The Woodlands, Texas.  Since 1984  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Don't Wait to See Your Attorney if you Have Been Sued!

If you have been sued, don't wait to contact your lawyer!  There are specific times limits that you are given and you must answer the lawsuit within that time. If you don't, you may lose your case. With no answer on file, and no one speaking up for you, the judge will see and hear only one version of the events.  (NOTE: in Texas Justice of the Peace/Small Claims Courts the time period that you have to answer is shorter than for other state courts).

"Getting served" can happen in person when someone (usually a constable or private process server) personally hands you the official papers in the case.  ("You have been SERVED!") In some cases, you could also be served by certified mail, by papers being "posted" on the door where you are likely to be found, by someone at your home or office taking papers for you, by your attorney accepting service for you, or even by publication in a newspaper or business journal.   Some of the above methods (other than a qualified person actually handing you the paperwork) may or may not be "proper service".   In that case, if you argue to the judge that you were not properly served, he or she will make as decision as to whether or not you received proper notice and what should happen with the case after that.

So, if you get served with a lawsuit, make sure you contact an attorney right away. This is important in ALL cases, but especially in family law and business law cases, which can be life-changing. Bring your paperwork to the lawyer's office with you when you have your initial appointment. When you call to make the appointment, make sure you tell the law office staff that you have been sued.


Kalish Law Office - The Woodlands Texas.
Business Attorneys in The Woodlands - Divorce and Family Law Lawyers

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Is Your Divorce and Family Law Attorney There for you in an Emergency?

Is your divorce and family law attorney "there for you" in an emergency?  What is a "true" emergency?  How should you handle an emergency in your family law case? 

Legal problems sometimes do result in true emergencies.  There are also urgent situations that feel like emergencies because they are "emotional emergencies".

When you have an attorney, it is normal to want and hope for answers and reassurance from him/her.

How can your attorney be there for you in time of emergency or upset?

  1. Letting you know you are "heard".  You may have some questions that can't be answered yet ("What's going to happen?"), but it is comforting to know that someone is in your corner looking our for your interests and paying attention to your wishes.
  2. Checking email regularly. Sometimes it is a relief just to know that the attorney has a piece of information to consider.  Even if the lawyer is in court, or out of the office, knowing that you have put something important in writing for future consideration may put your mind at ease and let you go about your day. 
  3. Letting you know your information is received.  A specific reply, a return receipt, communication from the legal staff or even a quick email or text telling you that a phone conference or face-to-face meeting is needed to discuss in more detail lets you know your concerns are being taken seriously. 
  4. Providing reassurance.  Knowing that your attorney has dealt with other situations like yours and has a plan for different possibilities that may arise in your case helps you the scary unknown in proper perspective. 
  5. Giving you "dos and don'ts" to assist you in your case.   You may be considering a piece of behavior that feels totally reasonable to you now, but has the ability to come back to haunt you later in the case.  Follow the instructions your lawyer gives you about what to do and not do in order to avoid accidentally doing harm to your case. 
  6. Helping you to understand the legal process.   An explanation of "why" something cannot be resolved immediately along with sharing the overall plan for the case is very helpful!

What is a true emergency?

When you feel that your family or property is at stake everything may feel like an emergency.  However, some situations are worse than others.   The following are true emergencies:

  1. Someone's life is at stake
  2. Someone is about to be injured
  3. Someone is about to do harm to himself/herself or others
  4. A child has been (or you are fairly certain is about to be) kidnapped, or is missing. 
  5. In some cases, property damage or destruction or a break-in 
  6. Cruelty to persons or animals
  7. Violation of a court order (when immediate harm may occur)
Your attorney should be notified of these things, however, here are some guidelines.

How to report an emergency and when:

  1. When you call a doctor's office or clinic after hours it is common to receive the message "If this is an emergency please hang up and call 911".  That is good advice.  If you have a true emergency going on, don't spend time contacting your lawyer while someone is in true physical danger. Call the police.  Then notify your lawyer. 
  2. If a child has been abducted, notify law enforcement first, your lawyer second. 
  3. If there is major property destruction that is happening now, tell law enforcement first.  If the destruction is more "minor" (example: destruction of mementos in your home during a divorce which is upsetting but not dangerous), you won't need law enforcement involved but should take pictures and let your divorce lawyer know so that s/he can deal with it by discussing it with opposing counsel, the mediator or the judge (as appropriate). 
  4. Abuse of persons or animals.  Report to the proper authorities. If it is going on now  call 911. If it is in the past, or ongoing, notify the proper authorities for child protection, elder protection, or animal protection.  Then tell your lawyer if it is relevant to your case. 
  5. Stay calm!  
  6. If your attorney is unavailable, or is unable to answer all your concerns immediately, be patient.  And don't react in anger. Angry emails, social media posts or voice messages will come back to haunt you later.  Take a deep breath!
  7. Be aware of manipulation tactics.  The parties in a family law case usually know each other pretty well. Your ex may be trying to get you upset and wanting you to say/do something you'll regret. Don't fall for it! 
  8. If you have a restraining order in place and the other party is violating it, have a copy of the order with you so that you can show it to the police if and when necessary. 
  9. When there is a  "financial emergency", tell your attorney or his/her staff right away.  Here are a few examples: 1) your spouse/ex is making unauthorized withdrawals from accounts; 2) you discover your house payment or utility payment wasn't made as ordered 3) your spouse/ex is fraudulently incurring expenses in your name.  These situations may require your attorney to get an emergency hearing in front of a judge during the court's work hours. 
Divorce, custody and other family law cases have a potential for urgent situations to occur.  If you are involve in such a case, take the time to think about how you would handle the different situations that may occur.  Keep your attorney informed, and follow her/his advice. 

Kalish Law Office: Divorce and Family Law Attorneys in The Woodlands Texas.
"Passionate, Professional and Personal. We Make the Difference." Since 1984

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Why Does my Divorce Decree Require me to Purchase Life Insurance?

Texas family law requires that divorces affecting children take "the best interests of the child" into account.

Therefore, a divorce decree may require a parent to purchase and maintain life insurance in a particular amount for the benefit of the children.   Commonly, the parent who is paying child support (Payor) will be required to buy and maintain the insurance on his or her life for the benefit of the minor children (or for as long as child support is due).   This protects the children in the event that the parent dies prior to the child support obligation being paid and completed.

The order to purchase and maintain life insurance can also be made as "spousal support". In that case, the order will generally be in effect for as long as spousal support is due.

In some circumstances, the obligation to maintain life insurance may extend beyond the child reaching majority, with the intent of covering the years that the child would potentially be attending college. 

The life insurance requirement may be ordered by a judge or may be a provision that is negotiated when there is a settlement between the parties.   It is a common provision in Texas. If there is such a provision in a decree which has been signed by a judge, it is not optional. It is a court order.  Like other court orders, ignoring it can lead to further action in court against you for failure to abide by it.  If you have been ordered to maintain such insurance, do so. If your ex has been ordered to maintain life insurance and s/he is not doing so, you can seek a legal consultation to determine your alternatives to enforce that provision in your decree.

Kalish Law Office - The Woodlands, Texas  "Passionate, Professional and Personal. We Make the Difference. Since 1984."  281-363-3700

Friday, June 21, 2013

Help for Senior Citizens in Avoiding Scams

Scammers and con artists are always updating their knowledge and refining their game.

Senior citizens are especially vulnerable and some scammers "specialize" in targeting this particular group.

Fraudulent letters, emails, and phone calls are getting more and more sophisticated.  Recently, the Texas Office of Attorney General ("OAG") issued an alert aimed at helping prevent these tragedies.  This OAG alert tells us that the scammers are now sending cashier's checks first  (rather than asking the victim to send $ 100 or so to cover "fees").  These checks are so sophisticated that even some bank tellers have been fooled!  Click here to see the alert.

In addition, the site contains information about Lotteries & Sweepstakes, how to deal with unsolicited mail or phone call, and how to recognize the "5 Warning Signs".  Click here

If you have a loved one who may be especially vulnerable to scams, take the time to make sure that he or she understands how to avoid them and what to do if confronted.

Kalish Law Office - The Woodlands, Texas
"Passionate, Professional and Personal. We Make the Difference."  Since 1984

Monday, June 17, 2013

Getting Away from an Abusive Situation

Getting out of an abusive situation can be extremely difficult for a lot of reasons. The most common reasons that someone may stay in an abusive/violent relationship include 1) fear for children or family members 2) fear of retaliation (physical or other, such as embarrassment, interfering on job site) 3) financial reasons 4) concern for the person who is being left.

Abuse and violence are never O.K.

If you are involved in such a relationship and have children, it is important to consider the effect that this relationship has on them.   Growing up in such an environment is not only terrifying and stressful for the children, it can lead to long-term psychological problems such as serious depression, inability to maintain close relationships, and belief that receiving or giving abuse in a relationship is "normal".

It takes a lot of courage and support to break the cycle of abuse.   If you are in such a situation, you may need to use every resource available-- legal, spiritual, support groups, family, friends and shelters or hotlines.

There is help available from various organizations.

Legally, your attorney can ask for protective orders from a court. These order your abuser to stay away from you and stop harassing you, and allow the authorities to arrest him/her if the court order is violated.

It can be difficult to call the police on someone you care about, but doing so will create a record of what has happened that will be available for you to show as evidence to the court.   This prevents a "he said- she said" situation where the abuser can swear that he/she was actually the abused one, or only struck out in self-defense.   If you have injuries or there is property destruction by the abuser, document this with dated photos.

It is never  acceptable for someone to abuse a child, animal, or elder at any time.   If you see this happening, you must report this to the proper authorities immediately. Even if you are afraid, you must find the courage to do this.

There are some abusers who don't feel that laws or court orders apply to them.  If that is true in your situation, you will have to go to a safe place-- a shelter or the home of someone that you trust.  Many times the abused partner stays in the home because of a mistaken belief that if s/he leaves then the court will award the home to the abuser. This is not true.   Leaving a home for safety reasons will not "count against you" in a courtroom.

Abuse is most commonly thought of as being between a married or partnered couple, with the man as the abuser and the woman as the victim.  That stereotype does not always hold true.  There are men who are abused by women, parents who are abused by adult children, and abuse occurs in same-sex relationships as well as traditional ones.

If you are dating someone who is violent, or you know that they have a violent streak that is bound to come out, you need to terminate the relationship. Don't wait until the years pass by and you are further entangled with that person financially and in other ways.  Get out now.

On a personal note, many years ago, I had a coworker who didn't show up for work one day, It was later discovered that her husband had shot and killed her and she had been living with his abuse for years.   Although I didn't know her well, I think of her often.

This month, the Texas State Bar's Client Page focuses on how to get out of a violent situation.    Click here to see the article.  The article also contains valuable resources to help you plan, and gives resources to help you if you are unable to afford an attorney.

For our own area, here is a link to the Montgomery County Women's Center, which maintains a shelter, and is "Committed to Ending Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault".

- This blog is in memory of  "B"

Kalish Law Texas -- The Woodlands Texas
Family Law Attorneys-- Divorce, Protective Orders. Since 1984
"Passionate, Professional and Personal.  We Make the Difference."

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Father's Day Coupon!


Friday, May 31, 2013

Governmental Help for Checking your Credit Score

You can and should get a copy of your credit report free once every 12 months.

There is a government website which gives you information on how to order, complete with links to forms, addresses, and contact phone numbers.   The site also tells you why you should do it, how long it takes, and what to do if you discover inaccuracies.

Here are some reasons WHY you should do this every 12 months:

1. Inaccuracies are very common.  The report may show a debt as unpaid that you did pay or it may list information that belongs to someone else and not you, show outdated information or list disputed debts.  You can and should correct these errors.
2. Someone else's information may be on your report - For instance, an ex-spouse, a family member, someone with a similar name or social security number, or a stranger that had one of the same addresses that you had (but not at the same time).
3. If you have been divorced or are about to be, you should know your credit score.  Your credit score will be important if you are going to buy a new home or car, and may be checked if you are applying for certain jobs. Know what a third party will see.  Once you are divorced, make sure that your ex-spouse's credit issues are not on  your report.

In some cases, your divorce decree may specify that your spouse needs to pay a debt, but you may remain legally responsible to the creditor (but not always).  This area can be tricky to interpret and is based on family law, contract law and consumer law that is both federal and state law.  If you compare your credit report and your divorce decree, and you still aren't sure whether the credit report is accurate, ask for help from a family law/consumer law attorney.

Here is the link to the government website: Free Credit Reports 

Kalish Law Office:  Family law, consumer law and  business law. Since 1984. The Woodlands, Texas
"Passionate, Professional and Personal. We Make the Difference."

Friday, May 17, 2013

What you Need To Know About Being an Executor

The May 2013 AARP Bulletin has an excellent article about being an executor of an estate. The article urges that anyone who is going to make that promise or take on that responsibility should know the practical aspects of the job they are signing up to do.  Specifically, anyone who is going to accept an appointment as executor should first ask himself/herself whether they have the time, skills, temperament and knowledge to do this, or have the willingness to learn. 

Help is available. In addition to general information online, some probate courts have booklets and other resources available to those who are serving as Executor (also called "Personal Representative").  Be aware that these resources are going to be state-specific so you need to be sure that any information you rely on is valid in the state of the probate case. 

Attorneys can also help. For instance, when we have drafted a will for a client and that person later dies, the family often comes back to our firm and hires us to help with the distribution of the estate and probate process (when probate court is necessary).    We also see families for the first time after the death of a loved one.   So an executor can seek an attorney's help with the estate whether or not that attorney is the same one who drafted the will. 

To see the AARP article, click here.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Many Faces of Fraud.. Part II... The "Known" Perpetrator

Last time we covered fraud that is committed in an "impersonal" manner.  Unfortunately, fraudulent activity is not confined to those situations. Here are a few other types of fraud that I hope you never encounter.

Marital Fraud

When one spouse defrauds another proving the fraudulent activity can be important to a the final division of property in a divorce case. Marital fraud can take various forms. The most common is the hiding of assets. The spouse who is acting in bad faith may hide money, real or personal property, regular income, commissions or  bonuses from the innocent spouse.   Another type of fraud occurs when one spouse forges an innocent spouse's name without his/her permission in order to obtain loans or credit. 

If you believe that you may have been defrauded by your spouse, you should try to gather proof while you have the opportunity.  Once you confront your spouse or have him/her served with a divorce suit, s/he may attempt to hide evidence.   Although you can request documentation or a deposition through your attorney once a suit is filed, this process can take a while and will cost you some money.   Therefore, it is a good idea to get a copy of the evidence while you can, unless it will put you or someone you care about at a physical risk. 

You should contact a divorce attorney who is familiar with the complications that marital fraud can add to a case. 

Consumer Fraud

Another type of fraud that is common is consumer fraud.  This fraud can be perpetrated more easily by someone who gets to know you face to face.

You can help prevent this type of problem by taking the following steps: 1) if you need a service provider or need to make a major purchase, try to get a personal referral or at least check out the person/company online; 2) don't let anyone pressure you into making a quick decision  3) read any contracts thoroughly 4) only rely on what is written in the contract and ask for any guarantees or changes in contract terms to be in writing.

Certain types of activity may be covered by the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. If you file a suit under this act, and win, you may be entitled to additional damages and may also be able to recover reasonable attorneys fees.  A business or consumer attorney can help you evaluate your situation and tell you the most efficient and financially feasible way to handle it.

Other Types of Fraud

In some cases, someone close to you may choose to forge your name, take on your identity, or steal from you. Whether it is a family member, friend, colleague, former employee or neighbor, you may have various legal remedies.  You may be able file a criminal report, in other cases a civil suit to recover your damages may be appropriate.   Some situations may call for both criminal and civil action. 

If you are a business owner and an employee acts fraudulently at your place of business or by using your name, you will need to do some quick damage control. First, be sure that none of your customers are harmed and that none of their personal data or assets are at risk.  You will need to immediately restrict that employee's access to your business records and information.  You should take immediate action against that person, document everything and be certain that you are familiar with employment law regarding disciplinary action and termination.  Consulting with a business attorney right away can help you to avoid pitfalls that make the situation worse, and manage your risk adequately. 

As we have seen there are many types of fraud.  If you have been a victim of fraud, you should become familiar with all your options. A legal consult can help you to decide the best way to minimize damages and whether or not you should take further action. 

Kalish Law Office - The Woodlands Texas 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Happy Mother's Day


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Many Faces of Fraud- Part I of 2

Unfortunately, this is a big topic.   There are many varieties of fraud and this post will cover a few of the most common, as well as give some tips on how to deal with fraud, and how to avoid it in the first place! This first blog will cover the fraud perpetrated by strangers.... the next one will give you some options in the case of a known perpetrator.

Telemarketing Fraud:

Telemarketing fraud has gotten much more sophisticated.  Often the fraudulent callers will possess enough information to make it sound as if it may be legit.   Common targets: senior citizens and business owners.  These unscrupulous callers tend to talk fast, be persistent, and use high pressure tactics. They may have some accurate information about you in order to get you to let your guard down.  Businesses are targets because someone who is answering a phone during business hours may be busy and pressed for time, and therefore more willng to "just tell them what they want to know" in order to get the annoying caller off the phone.   These callers may use the phone number or website address of a legitimate business in order to get you to trust them. For instance, a recent scam involves someone claiming to be from "The Better Business Bureau" who calls and leaves the website address for the actual BBB, but in reality is not associated with it.  Best defenses: NEVER give up information on the phone. If they are legitimate, they won't mind you saying "no".   Don't be pushed into a decision.   Keep repeating "I do not give that information out over the phone."  Hang up.   Make sure the senior citizens and children in your family understand safety rules about answering the phone. Train your employees not to give out information on the phone.

Credit Card Fraud:

I have written blogs about this before, and I'll say it again:  SHRED your old credit card documents.   Check your credit report periodically.  Make sure you login to only safe sites online. Don't write down personal information in a place where someone can see it or steal it.   Organize yourself.   The U.S. Secret Service advises that everytime you call an 800, 888, or 900 number your name and address are captured and become part of your electronic profile.  So be careful who you call!

Email and "4-1-9" Fraud

Email scams are called 4-1-9 scams (based on a section of the Nigerian Penal Code that deals with fraud.   A few years ago, these scams were almost laughable ("Hi, I am a Nigerian Prince and I have a check with your name on it, please write back!") but they have become extremely sophisicated.  Don't click on links in the email and don't respond to scams (even if you think it may be fun to "mess with them").   Clicking and responding can cause (at worst) a virus in your computer and theft of electronic data and (best case) an annoying pen pal you can't get rid of.   When you delete the message, delete it from your trash bin as well. It's also a good idea to run a virus scan if you accidentally open one of these emails.   If you have a business and can't avoid opening these emails (because you can't afford to miss some "real customers"), invest in a good virus protection program, train yourself and your staff in how to recognize and deal with fraud and have a system to screen potential clients (hint: they DO know how to create fake I.D.).  You should be familiar with the ways to report fraud (to Texas Attorney General, FBI, U.S. Secret Service, or your local law enforcement and/or District Attorney - depending on the situation).  If you have been defrauded, you should immediately report this to the proper authority (see below).

Creditor Fraud

Creditor fraud takes many forms: pretending that the person owes a debt when the caller knows they do not, attempting to collect a debt that the caller knows is not valid,  misquoting the law (for example telling a widowed spouse that they are responsible for debts of a deceased spouse when the caller knows that they are not), and various misuse or disregard of state and federal laws.  These callers may also try to pressure you in revealing information that you shouldn't, and may even threaten you.   This type of behavior should be reported to proper authorities.

Identity Theft

We have written blogs about this before, because it is so widespread.   The tips quoted above for the other types of fraud also apply here: guard your papers, passwords and private info.  Don't give out information about yourself. Watch what you say online.  Don't trust someone who wants your personal info.  Shred papers.   Watch your credit report.  Look around when you are using the ATM and keypads. Don't leave gas receipts or credit card receipts behind.  If you have been a victim of identity theft, act fast. Report this to your bank, all accounts, the social security office, credit reporting agencies, and possibly to a Driver's License office. 

Helpful Links

Texas DPS Identity Theft Information

U.S. Secret Service: check out "Protecting Yourself"

Texas Attorney General: Frauds and Scams

F.B.I. - Identity Theft

Next time... the "known" perpetrator, maritial fraud, business fraud, and how an attorney can help you.

Kalish Law Office - The Woodlands Texas