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 TexasCourthouses.com.  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
www.kalishlawtexas.com   "Passionate, Professional and Personal.  We make the difference."