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!! 

Se habla espaƱol

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