Monday, June 30, 2014

Procrastination Can Cost You Money!

"Procrastination is like a credit card. It's a lot of fun until you get the bill."- Christopher Parker

We have all been told not to procrastinate, and to plan ahead.  This is especially true in the legal area.  

Sometimes, by the time a client sees an attorney, things have gotten complicated and a little messed up. The attorney may shake her head and say sadly, "If only you had come to me sooner!".

I could give many examples of cases in which someone waited a little too long to come in.   By that point, a deadline had passed, the opposing party had become inflexible, binding documents had been signed, evidence had been lost, or things had been said that could never be taken back.  

Whether you have a contract issue, a family law problem, or are thinking about making a will, don't procrastinate.  Waiting too long to deal with an issue can increase the complexity of your case and can also significantly increase the legal cost!

Having a 30 minute consultation with a lawyer can be a bargain, even if you don't choose to hire the lawyer at that time.  You can get guidance to help you deal with that situation now.

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference."
We are celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2014!  A big THANK YOU you to our clients & the community for making this possible! 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Do the Casey Kasem Family Woes Contain a Lesson for the Rest of Us?

The family issues which arose at the end of Casey Kasem's life were played out in the public eye, but unfortunately, this type of situation could  happen in a lot of families.

Let's face it, there are some variables that no one can anticipate.  For instance, most of us expect (hope) that we and our family members will die "when we are older" and that we will have time to plan. We also hope that the people that we sit across from at holiday dinners will pull together in a crisis and not sue each other over our person or property.

But sometimes that is not to be.   In this particular family fight as in all disputes, there were two sides.   And Casey was unable to speak for himself.    He had done some advance planning, and had reportedly signed a  designation of health care guardian in 2007, which appointed one of his daughters and her husband to speak for him if  he were incapacitated.   His wife Jean Kasum, however, claimed that he had signed a 2011 document which invalidated the 2007 document.  (I would venture to guess that a major issue in this case was whether Casey understood what he was signing in 2011, and whether he was subjected to "undue influence" when he signed the document. This is a common inquiry in cases such as these, especially when there is a memory disorder involved). 

Casey's adult children claimed that their step mother was keeping their father from them.  She claimed she was doing what was best for him.  A legal battle ensued, and long story short, the Judge ruled that Jean Kasem was her husband's conservator. The parties were ordered to work out a visitation agreement. 

Casey Kasem's children have begun a nonprofit foundation called "Kasem Cares" which is working to instituted legal rights for adult children in California and elsewhere. 

So, what are the lessons for the rest of us?   Well, the obvious (and upsetting) reminders are these;  some of us will not be able to speak for ourselves at the end of our lives.  Also, that family does not always get along, even when times are tough.  And, even if family does try to get along, different people have different (sincerely held) beliefs about what is right and what is in their loved one's best interest.  Some would say that there is more likely to be trouble in step families that in intact families, but over 20 years of law practice has given me plenty of examples of serious disagreements in intact families as well. 

But here is the "up" side of this.   We all can (and should) do what we can, while we can to minimize the issues that can occur later on.  Even though we can't stop people from disagreeing, or even filing lawsuits, it is still important to give them "something to go on."  It is important to make our wishes known, in writing, in a proper legal form, while we are able to speak for ourselves. And it is important to help our parents help us by guiding us while they are able.

Advance planning does not automatically prevent any disputes from happening, but it is a step in the right direction.  Powers of attorney, Medical Powers of Attorney, Physician's Directives and Designation of Future Guardian are all important documents that can be used along with a Last Will and Testament to help make wishes known. 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference."
We are celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2014!  A big THANK YOU you to our clients & the community for making this possible! 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Why Ignoring Child Support Obligations Doesn't Work

If you owe child support and you are unable to pay it, you may believe that everything is fine as long as you don't hear otherwise. You may feel that if you don't "rock the boat", you'll catch up later "when things are better".

Times are difficult financially.  But when it comes to owing child support, it is a mistake to subscribe to the "no news is good news" theory.

People who are obligated to pay child support are called "Obligors" in legal terminology. 

Obligors who don't pay child support not only risk having a court case brought against them, but the parent who is supposed to be receiving the support (called an "Obligee") can file a suit to have the arrearage (unpaid back support) made into a formal judgment by court order. The Obligee can then collect on this for years, even long after the child has turned 18 and graduated from high school. 

Child support judgments can follow you in many ways such as showing up in your credit history, preventing you from renewing governmentally issued licenses, and taking your tax refund. 

In addition, if you are not paying child support AND not exercising your visitation (a truly "absent parent"), you run the risk of your ex seeking termination of your rights in court. 

Many adult children who have an absent parent who did not support them financially or emotionally bear the scars and carry the anger for years, or for the rest of their lives. They may feel hurt and abandoned, and feel that they owe complete loyalty to the parent who did support them. Therefore, it can be very difficult to begin a good relationship when the children are adults, even if you want to.

If you owe child support and don't know what to do to make the situation right, you should seek a legal consult with a family lawyer who can tell you your options so that you can decide how to handle it.

Kalish Law Office - Family & Business Law - The Woodlands, Texas 
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference."
We are celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2014!  A big THANK YOU you to our clients & the community for making this possible! 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Risks and Benefits of Initiating a Stepparent Adoption When the Biological Parent is Absent

When a child's biological parent is out of the picture for years and a stepparent (or another adult) is the child's "true parent", adoption may be considered.

However, adopting a child does require filing a suit in family court and having one of the following results: 

  1. (in a case for agreed termination and adoption) the legal consent of the biological parent whose rights are being terminated; OR
  2. (in a case for involuntary termination) persuading a judge that termination is warranted under the law; OR 
  3. (in a case initiated by Child Protective Services) obtaining a judge's order in a  termination case and having the child entered into the CPS "system"; OR 
  4. (in a case where the biological parent is unable to be found) having an attorney ad litem represent the absent parent and confirm that a diligent search does not find the parent's whereabouts and then getting a termination order from the judge.
In addition, the adoptive parent will need to have a background check and a home study by a certified and court-approved social worker.

When the process begins, there is always a risk that the biological parent may decide to become involved in the child's life again and even exercise or demand visitation.  In some cases, this could turn out to be a very positive thing for the child, even if it is disruptive to the "new" marriage or relationship which includes the stepparent.

However, in some cases, it can be a dangerous risk. For instance, if the absent parent has substance abuse issues, engages in criminal activities, or has mental issues which negatively affect the ability to safely parent the child, you would not want to open the door to their contact with your child. 

If you are considering requesting termination of the rights of an absent parent, you should keep these things in mind. In some cases, a confidential background check may be a good idea before initiating a legal process that could bring the absent parent back into the picture. 

A family law attorney who is familiar with adoption and termination can assist you in this situation. You should be careful to think through all of the benefits, risks and consequences that could occur prior to filing a suit.   This is important enough to plan in advance by a getting a legal consultation.

Kalish Law Office - Family & Business Law - The Woodlands, Texas 
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference."
We are celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2014!  A big THANK YOU you to our clients & the community for making this possible! 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Does a Texas Divorce Mean you are Also Divorced in Your Home Country?

If you are a citizen of another county and get a Texas divorce will you be divorced in  your own country?

Usually, yes... HOWEVER, you may have to file and register your Texas divorce decree in your own country. Registration of the decree is a specific legal process that may vary from country to country. In some cases it may be quite a simple process and in other cases you may need a lawyer in your home country to assist you.

Some countries, however, may not recognize your Texas divorce.  Here are four situations where recognition of your Texas divorce decree may not happen:
  1. In Venezuela - at the time of writing this blog, Venezuela is NOT recognizing U.S. divorces.  That could change in the future, but you are advised to contact a Venezuelan attorney.
  2. If your country is under Muslim law. Check with an attorney in your home country.
  3. If your home country is not under treaty (the "Hague Convention") with the United States and other countries to recognize United States legal documents and procedures. 
  4. If your country is currently in a political conflict with the U.S. or involved in other current political strife with the U.S.
Discuss your concerns with your Texas divorce attorney.  We often have international clients who need additional advice and assistance in how to handle divorce and other legal disputes that involve two or more countries. In that case, we are often able to contact our legal colleagues in other countries, or recommend options for how to handle a conflict of laws. It's important to work hand and hand with those colleagues to ensure that the appropriate language is incorporated in your Texas Divorce Decree so that it is properly understood in the foreign country. 

Kalish Law Office - Family & Business Law - The Woodlands, Texas 
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference."
We are celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2014!  A big THANK YOU you to our clients & the community for making this possible!