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!