Monday, December 28, 2015

What are Your Goals for the New Year?

The start of a New Year is an excellent time to evaluate your life and set some goals! Whether you call them goals, wishes or resolutions, there is a feeling of promise about starting a fresh new year.

One efficient way to focus your energies is to make a list of the different areas of your life. Then you can decide what you want to accomplish in each area.

For example:
  1. Personal/ Family Life
  2. Health/ Nutrition
  3. Work/Career/ My Business
  4. Spiritual/ Helping others
  5. Time with Friends/Neighbors
  6. Personal Growth/ Learning
Don't forget #6! It is important to actually schedule some time for yourself. Everyone needs it and by treating yourself well you are able to treat others well, too. 

Have a Happy, Healthy & Prosperous New Year! #newyearsresolutions

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, December 21, 2015

The Holiday Spirit

Are you in the holiday spirit?  

For some people, the holidays are a time of fond memories and warm feelings.  For others, the holidays are a time to dread.

Many people get stressed during holiday time, even if they do not celebrate the religious aspects of the holiday season.  Why?

  1. Commercial pressure of our society.
  2. Expectations that others have, or that we think they have. 
  3. Dreary days and less sunlight. 
  4. End of the year deadlines in business and work (accounting, inventory, budgeting). 
  5. Travel and out of town guests. 
  6. Missing departed loved ones or family members that have moved away. 
  7. Going through a "tough time". Divorce, illness or other life changes feel magnified during the holiday season. 
  8. Abbreviated holiday hours of businesses can make it harder to get things done. 
  9. Lots of traffic and waiting in line. 
  10. Feeling that everything is out of their control. 
For some people depression also appears or increases around the holidays.   

Here are some things you can do to get and keep the Holiday spirit!
  1. Know how to say "no". 
  2. Smile more.
  3. Call or visit someone you know who is lonely.
  4. Invite someone to a meal with you if they will be alone over the holidays (or take them some food if they are shut-in at their home.)
  5. Practice a random act of kindness. 
  6. Take a walk, alone,  in a place that makes you feel good.  
  7. Give yourself a gift (even if it is just a break, doing nothing).
  8. Ask yourself, "how important is this really?" and cut out activities that you don't need.
  9. Get enough rest and regular nutritious food. 
  10. Ask for help. If you are depressed, lonely, or just need help running errands or cooking a meal, know how to ask for (and accept) the help of others rather than trying to do it all yourself. 
The "holiday spirit" really has nothing to do with expectations, purchases, or to-do lists. It is about appreciating who we are and what we have. It is about showing our family, friends, neighbors and colleagues that we appreciate them! 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Harassment Prohibited by Court During a Divorce

If you are in the process of a divorce, you may have specific Temporary Orders in place that are the result of a court hearing or mediation. You likely have "Standing Orders" in place that automatically apply to every divorce filed in your Texas county.

Regardless, spouses are not to harass each other during a divorce. This includes harassing and threatening each other in voice mails, texts, video chat, and electronic voice transmission and messaging, as well as in person, on social media, by telephone, and through third parties.

What to do if you and your soon-to-be-ex spouse cannot seem to communicate civilly?

  1. Take care of business-  you will have to cooperate to be sure bills are paid, children are cared for, mail is picked up.   Keep your communications matter-of-fact and businesslike.  
  2. Go to your "calm place"-  Whether it is counting to 10 or humming your favorite song, have something that you can do to "remind yourself" to keep it calm. 
  3. Walk away, hang up the phone, ignore the text.   Once you have taken care of essential business, its time to move on.  "The last word" is often the one that starts trouble.  
  4. Learn to say, "I'll think about it and get back to you."
Keep communications short, calm, and relevant to avoid problems. 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Sunday, December 6, 2015

How Many Certified Letters Testamentary Should You Order?

If you have recently been to a Texas probate court and been granted  Letters Testamentary, you will be asked how many certified copies you need.  How should you determine this? 

The first thing that you should do is to make a list of the property that needs to be transferred. Chances are that your attorney already has asked you for this information, probably at your first meeting. However, you may know more about the estate now than you did then.    

Here is how to determine how many copies of Letters Testamentary you need.  If there were bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies or any other assets that had a properly executed beneficiary designation on file, you do not need to show the Letters Testamentary for the transfer of these assets.

  1. Get a certified copy of the Letters Testamentary for each banking institution that you will be visiting or writing to for the purpose of account transfer.  (properly titled joint accounts, POD accounts or TOD accounts will not be include in probate court).  You may need more than one if you are dealing with different departments of the same institution. (say, one for the trust department, one for the general banking). 
  2. How many investment firms will you be contacting? One for each.
  3. How many life insurance policies are payable to the estate?  Get one for each life insurance company you will be dealing with when the life insurance is payable to the deceased person's estate.
  4. One or two copies for yourself to keep with your records. Always a good idea in case an asset shows up later that you did not know about or that you thought could be transferred without the need for the paperwork. You may also need to show the Letters Testamentary to transfer miscellaneous property, small pieces of property or to show your authority to do so.  Don't forget to check the Texas Unclaimed Property website!
  5. One for each piece of real estate that you are transferring or selling. 
  6. Your attorney may want a certified copy for his/her file.
Other documents may be needed!  You may also need to have a certified copy of the Order Admitting the Will to Probate and a certified copy of the Will that was admitted to probate.   Forms that are specific to that bank, insurance company or investment firm may need to be completed as well. To save yourself some time, research in advance what will be required for each transfer. Then you can order the necessary certified documents all at once to prevent trips to the courthouse and save time. 

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Monday, November 30, 2015

How Many Death Certificates Should You Order?

If a loved one recently passed and you are in charge of arrangements, you will need to decide how many death certificates to order. This is often taken care of by the funeral director as part of the funeral arrangements. 

Here is a general list to show how many certificates may be needed:
  1. One for each close family member. 
  2. One for each financial institution that the deceased had dealings with. (including banks, stocks, investment firms, credit unions). 
  3. One for each employer/benefits administrator/union  that provided a benefit.
  4. One for each state or federal agency that you will be dealing with. 
  5. One for the attorney who will be helping with the estate. 
  6. An additional one to four copies for yourself for later use. 

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Parent Seeking Relocation to Another State With Child

If you are a divorced or divorcing parent who is under the authority of a court and wish to relocate with your child, you may find that you are facing more than you bargained for.

Prior to accepting that new job in another state (or before considering a move outside your child's school district), you should:
  1. Read your divorce decree or other court orders about visitation and custody to see if there are restrictions about moving. Some decrees require the child to live in a certain county or school district. 
  2. Your court orders may require that you go to mediation before taking any action to relocate with your child.
  3. If you are unable to reach an agreement with your ex-spouse about your proposed move, you may decide to file a petition with the court to change the court orders. 
  4. The court will always look at the best interests of the child, rather than the desires or interests of the parents. 
  5. The court will generally assume that it is best for the child to have both parents involved regularly, rather than sporadically.
Although it is true that modern technology gives children and parents the ability to stay in touch more frequently, a judge may still deny a parent permission to move away with the child. Stability is very important to children, and the upheaval of leaving friends, neighborhood and school can be difficult, especially for a child who has already been through a divorce. 

However,  each situation is different. Some common reasons for a parent to seek a move with his/her child include a) inability to find employment in the current location b) necessity of relocation for current job posting or training c) service in the military d) helping to care for aging grandparents or other family responsibility e) health reasons.

A family law attorney can review your situation with you in a legal consultation and will explain what you can expect if you choose to file a petition to modify your decree in order to relocate.

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Financial Fraud in a Marriage

Financial fraud in a marriage can occur in various ways.  Usually, but not always, the violating spouse has more power and/or earning capacity than the other spouse.

Ways in which financial fraud can occur:

1. Fraudulent spouse spends money on extramarital relationships or on other family members without the innocent spouse's knowledge or consent.
2. Fraudulent spouse applies for credit in innocent spouse's name without consent, increasing debt or commits some other type of forgery to gain control over assets.
3. Fraudulent spouse gambles away or gives away money.
4. Fraudulent spouse has hidden money, accounts, assets, stock options, or bonuses that s/he does not tell innocent spouse about (even when information is sought during a divorce).
5. Property is transferred to others or is "co-owned" with other persons in order to avoid disclosure.

Very often the innocent spouse feels financially powerless in some fashion, although he or she may be educated, intelligent, and may have his or her own source of income.   The fraudulent spouse's goal is to keep his/her earnings and assets separate and secret, sometimes even risking violation of a court order.

In some cases, financial experts must be hired to thoroughly analyze the financial picture. In other cases (such as forgery) criminal charges may need to be filed.

The innocent spouse who is considering a divorce  and suspects financial fraud is encouraged to get as much information as possible (as long as it is physically safe to do so) prior to filing for divorce. Many smartphone cameras take quick and clear photos of documents.   It is important to disclose the suspicion of fraud to the divorce attorney at the initial consult so that all possible steps can be taken early on to protect the innocent spouse's rights.

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, November 9, 2015

Avoid Lawsuits for your Company- Don't Promise More Than You Can Give!

It is good Risk Management Strategy to make sure that your promises and representations to your customers/clients/patients are truthful, honest and free of unreasonable promises.

Promising more than you can deliver is tempting. You may want to make that sale or cement that relationship. Don't do so at the risk of future litigation. Defending a lawsuit or administrative claim eats into your profits!

Business owners can also get into trouble because of a desire to help the customer. Service providers especially can be tempted to put their own assets and well-being at risk in order to help a client solve a problem. But remember, the issues that brought the customer to you existed long before you came onto the scene.  Don't let your desire to solve a problem that someone else created be your downfall.  Look at the situation with realistic eyes, and help your customer do the same.

Here are some strategies to keep you out of trouble (and out of court). Some of these tips are taken straight from the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, a law that protects consumers:

  1. Don't promise that your goods or services are of a standard or quality that they are not. 
  2. Don't guarantee results when you have no control over the situation. This is especially important in a service industry. 
  3. If you guarantee satisfaction with the final product, be ready to stand behind that guarantee. 
  4. Make sure that you can afford to stand behind any guarantees for refund that you make. 
  5. Make sure that your sales team and other employees and representatives are not making promises that they should not be making. 
  6. Be honest about the endorsements and affiliations that your product or company has. 
  7. Be honest about the origin of the goods you sell. 
  8. Don't disparage your competitor's goods or services in an attempt to gain an advantage. 
  9. Don't advertise something as being on special or on sale when it is not, when you don't intend to follow through with the promise, or when you don't have enough to satisfy a reasonable demand. 
  10. Don't make false or misleading statements about the durability of your product.
  11. Don't have 'hidden charges" in your transactions
  12. Don't advertise a "going out of business sale" unless you are really going.
Following these tips can help keep your business on track and can help you develop a reputation for honesty and trustworthiness. 
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, November 2, 2015

Here come the Holidays... Review your Visitation Orders!!

WELL... I say it every year and I'm going to say it again! It is time to review your visitation orders and think about your holiday schedule!

A lot of conflict can be prevented by reviewing your plans in advance.   Make sure that your court orders really say what you think they say.

From mid-October through January 2nd, the calendar is chock full of celebrations, holidays, parties, religious observances, days off, family traditions, get-togethers and other events.

Planning ahead prevents misunderstandings, additional stress, hurt feelings, and disappointed children.

Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Check your court orders or mediated agreement 
  2. Calendar the times that you have visitation.
  3. Ask your children to sit down with you and tell you about any events that they have heard about. 
  4. Check your child's school calendar, your extended family schedule, and your church/temple/mosque events. 
  5. Communicate with your ex (if possible) to find out what else may be planned. 
  6. Put definite events and tentative events on a big calendar in different color print. 
  7. Don't request "last minute' changes from with your ex if at all possible. 
End of the year is usually not "stress-free", but you can help it be a little less stressful by planning ahead. 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, October 26, 2015

Powers of Attorney for Specific Events

Did you know that you can give power of attorney to someone you trust for a specific event or to cover a specific time? 

Well, you can!

The most common use of a specific power of attorney involves real estate closings.   A seller of a property who is leaving the area may not wish to return to the area simply for the purpose of signing the final paperwork.   In fact, returning for that one event often does not make good sense financially. In this case, the seller is able to give a power of attorney to his/her agent. The agent can be a trusted friend, family member, lawyer, or other professional and will attend the closing for the seller.

A power of attorney document may also be specific in other ways.  For instance, if you travel often for business you may wish to give power of attorney to your trusted friend solely for the purpose of paying your utilities/cable, or communicating with those companies if there is a problem.  There are many other uses for a power of attorney document in personal life and in the business setting. 

The power of attorney document can also have a specific term.   Most expire within a year or two. However, there are some situations in which it makes sense for the document to continue indefinitely (until it is revoked or the grantor (person who is signing it) dies.  They can also be written to take effect only if the principal (the person signing it) becomes disabled. 

This is a very flexible document that can be tailored to fit your specific needs.  So, if you have a situation where you need someone to "stand in your shoes" for you, consider getting a power of attorney.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

Now that You are Ready to Sign your Will ....

Once you have visited with your attorney, given careful consideration to the contents of your Last Will and Testament, and filled out and returned any forms that your attorney has requested, your will is drafted and ready for your review.

This post is a guide for our clients at Kalish Law Office.  If you have another firm drafting your will, the steps and procedures may differ.  However, all firms will want to be certain of two things before you sign your will   1) that your will accurately follows your wishes; and  2) that you understand what is in your will.

In our firm, we meet with the client(s) in a consultation appointment.   Occasionally, a client will know exactly what he or she wants and will have no questions at all for the attorney.  However, that is pretty rare. Most people have at least a few questions, even if they have a current will that they are updating.

At the consultation, the client and the attorney ask each other questions and share information to be certain that everyone has the same goals.  The client will be given a fill-in-the-blank form to take home.  This form assists the attorney in drafting the document and guides the client through the decision making process.

After the client has completed the forms and returned them and communicated further with the attorney to clarify issues and desires, the documents are drafted.

At this point, we have our clients review the draft completely.  We answer any questions the client has and share any further advice that we have for the client to consider.   We make sure everything is clear and accurate.  We ask the client to confirm the spelling of names of the people or charities named in the Will.  If the client requires and additional appointment, phone conference or explanation, we provide it.

After all changes have been made, questions are answered and the client is happy with the documents "as is", we print the final copy and schedule an appointment for the client to sign.  A notary and witnesses will be provided.   The client walks into the office ready to sign and is provided with the originals and a copy of the signed documents, once they are complete.

Our procedure was created to save valuable time for the client, attorney, notary and witnesses. It also helps ensure that the client has the encouragement to ask questions and  prevents a client from signing a document that s/he is not comfortable with or s/he has not reviewed.   Our goal is to provide accurate documents, provide good customer service to our clients, and help make the process easier!

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Terminating Parental Rights of an Absent parent

Clients often come to us asking for advice on whether they should try to terminate parental rights of their child's other parent.  In some of these cases, the biological parent has been literally absent for years, not paying support and not seeking visitation.
Each state has specific laws regarding how parental rights may be terminated.  This article pertains to the law in Texas.
Parental rights may be terminated voluntarily or involuntarily. When voluntary, the parent whose rights are being terminated will consent to the termination, and file the proper paperwork or appear in court.  If involuntary, the person contests the termination of his or her rights, and the judge will make the final decision. 
If you are a parent who is thinking about seeking termination of an absent parent's rights, here are some things you should know; 
1. The courts will be protective of the rights of all the parties. You may know that he/she has been a terrible parent, but you will have to prove it.  You should gather any evidence that you have. People are often shocked to discover that they have to go through several legal steps and have solid, specific proof to terminate a "deadbeat" parents rights.
2. The court may appoint an attorney to represent your child.  Often called an "attorney ad litem", this attorney will gather facts, interview involved parties and witnesses, appear at hearings, and make recommendations as to the "best interest of the child". 
3.  Another attorney may be appointed to represent an absent or unknown parent. 
4.  You will have to reveal where the other party is; or reveal his/her last known location. You, your attorney, or another attorney connected to the case will have to contact, or make best efforts to find that person. If there has been a long period of time with no communication, you should consider what might happen when communication is resumed.  (this is especially important if the other parent may be violent).
5. The court will require that a home study be performed by a qualified person, in order to gather information about the parties and their environment.
6. When budgeting for the case, you should consider the costs of the attorneys ad litem and home study. As the person filing the suit ("petitioner") you will usually pay these fees.  (some counties have "Family Services" departments which perform the home studies and the fees are on a "sliding scale" based on income).
There are times when the "best interest of the child" requires that the parental rights of a biological parent be terminated.   Although the procedure is an emotional one, it can be an important step to building a healthy family and moving towards the future. 

If you believe that this may be right for your family, the first step is to consult with a knowledgable attorney who practices family law and is familiar with Texas law involving termination of parental rights (or the law of your state).
Kalish Law Office has been representing clients in family law courts since 1984. The firm's website can be found at www.kalishlawtexas. com  

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, September 28, 2015

Tablet and Laptop Security Tips

Regular readers of our blog know that we love  to pass along safety tips that everyone  can use!

A great site for information is  This excellent site can help you keep your identity and valuables safe, give you news about current scams, and give you some general good information.

One important thing we can all do to keep our information safe is to protect our electronic devices.   A thief can swipe your device in a minute. If you are lucky, the thief will wipe it clean and sell it for quick cash. If you are unlucky, the thief will steal and use the information that is on it.   After a shopping spree, that same thief can sell your personal information, create havoc online, and then sell the device itself.

Onguardonline recommends these tips to keep your laptop from getting lost or stolen.   (most of these also apply to a tablet or a smart phone).

  1. Treat your tablet, laptop or smartphone like cash. 
  2. Don't leave it in the car
  3. Keep it locked (you can get a security cable for some devices)
  4. Keep it off the floor, or put it between and touching your feet
  5. Keep your passwords somewhere else (My own note: if this is impractical, at least invest in a secure, paid, encrypted, reputable, password storage app that erases the information after a few wrong log in attempts.)
  6. Don't leave it for "just a sec"
  7. Pay attention in airports- especially in security (My own tip: and also pay attention to your back pocket, and open purse on the back of your chair).
  8. Use bells and whistles (you can use an alarm or other security protection apps and passwords). 
Although some of these may be inconvenient, it is easier to avoid trouble in the first place that try to fix a problem once it has already happened. 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." Thirty one years and counting! 
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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Free Information for Your Small Business Start Up!

If you are thinking of starting a business right now, you can do a lot on your own to organize yourself.

There are many resources available tor small business owners.  The Small Business Administration has a lot of free information with organizational help online.  Also check out Texas Wide Open for Business from the Texas Governor's Office. This is a good resource for any Texas business and is especially informative for those who are newcomers to our state or who are considering coming here. 
And remember, you shouldn't wait until you have a crisis to choose a business attorney. It is well worth  your time to choose an experience Woodlands business attorney and set up a consultation. That way, if you have a legal need later on, all you'll need to do is pick up the phone. 
Check out our blog for more information and tips about your business and articles such as"Ten Things to Consider When Starting your own Business" and "Five Excellent Resources for Small Business". 
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Terminating Child Support in the Case of Mistaken Paternity

A man who is paying child support for a child that he mistakenly thought was his own child may be able to seek termination of the parent-child relationship and the duty to pay child support.  The case must meet certain requirements in order to proceed. 
First, a petition is filed in family court.  A hearing is held and if the judge determines that certain criteria are met, genetic testing will be ordered.
If the genetic testing confims that the man is not the biological parent of the child, the judge may terminate parental rights and the duty to pay future child support. However, the man will still have to pay any arrearage (back child support) that is due prior to the date of the court order terminating that duty.   
A man who learns that he is not the genetic father of a child has only one year to file a petition in court. 
Filing such a petition should be carefully thought through, because it is a serious matter.   A man who has truly been a father to a child may not want to change that, and may decide that biology doesn't matter.  
Terminating the parent-child relationship is always a serious matter that affects the lives of many people.
A consultation with a family law attorney can help determine the best course of action.  Additional information can also be found on the Texas Attorney General website under the Child Support Division. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

When Child Support Under the Guidelines is Not Enough

In addition to the general child support guidelines, the Texas Family Code also lists additional factors that may be considered by a judge in awarding child support outside the guidelines (either more or less support than would be ordered by applying strict guidelines). 
For instance, the party who has primary care of the child may have physical limitations him/herself, may be unemployed through no fault of his/her own, or may be unable to work due to the child's needs. If a child has special needs, that will be a major consideration.  All of these factors may allow for the Obligee (the person receiving child support) to request support above the guidelines.

On the other hand, the Obligor (person who  pays child support) may need to ask for a child support reduction, for the same reasons.   The Obligor may have a medical condition or disability, be unable to work through no fault of his/her own, or be able to show that the child is actually living with him/her most or all of the time. 

During a divorce, any unusual and all relevant facts should be discussed with your attorney.  After the divorce is final, any significant change in circumstances (health, employment, finances, where the child is living) may lead to a petition requesting that the judge order an increase or decrease in the amount of child support owed. 
If you believe that you may need to have a modification, or may need to ask for child support outside the guidelines, request a child support consult to discuss the circumstances with a family law attorney.  

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, August 31, 2015

Health Information Confidentiality

Most everyone has heard of HIPAA (the "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act").   This law covers health care plans, health care providers, clearinghouses, and their business associates. The health care information of individuals is protected from disclosure to the wrong parties by following these rules.

In general, the patient controls who sees his/her health care information.  There are two "required disclosures" that the health care entity must make:  1) to the individual or their personal representatives when specifically requested; and 2) to Health and Human Services in response to an investigation or review.

There are also certain times when the "public interest" may allow disclosure.   Public interest situations include disclosures made because of specific laws or situations (child abuse or neglect, abuse of the elderly or disabled, FDA tracking, OHSA purposes, communicable disease control, and the like).   Disclosure may also be allowed in some cases of domestic violence, to protect another person or the public from a threat, to facilitate organ donation, for purposes of determining cause of death or for preparing a body for burial, for law enforcement purposes, for workers compensation laws, or for other essential government functions.  There may also be disclosure when a court or administrative agency demands it by subpoena, order, or other lawful process.

But all of the rules and regulations in the world can't protect your information if you are careless with it yourself.  To maintain good control over your protected information, do the following: 

  1. Think about who you want to have access to your health care information.   It is usually best to have at least one person who has access, just in case something happens to you and you need assistance.  But don't choose just anyone, choose someone you trust. 
  2. Treat your medical records, prescription records and medical bills with the same care that you use for your bank statements and credit card receipts. 
  3. If you login online to see your medical records, be sure to use secure passwords and make sure that you log out when you are finished.  
  4. Be careful in public.  Just like you shouldn't shout out your social security number in public, you shouldn't share private health care information where the wrong person can hear it. 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Before you Embark on a Journey of Revenge...

"Revenge is sweet" according to a popular expression.

However, Confucius warned, "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves."

While the idea of revenge may feel satisfying, there is no doubt that it takes a toll on both parties.

There is nothing that gets strong emotions going like a legal fight.   Divorce, custody fights, business break ups, property disputes-  these are all the stuff of which revenge fantasies are made.

However, it is undisputable that taking out anger on the other party can have undesirable results, such as:
  1. Bystanders caught in the cross-fire (children, employees, friends).
  2. High blood pressure and other physical problems.
  3. Negative impact on the legal case by letting emotions rule the day.
  4. Decrease of income, lost business opportunities, and a disorganized personal/family life, because of lack of attention to the task at hand. 
  5. Affect on other personal relationships because the angry person has a "one track mind". 
Confucius was born over 2500 years ago, but the wisdom in this saying still holds true today.   "Before you make a journey of revenge, dig two graves."  Don't sacrifice yourself to pay someone back.    If you have a lawsuit pending, work within the legal system to make your point. Your attorney and the law office staff will help you by keeping you focused on what's important. 

Remember that "The best revenge is living well."

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, August 17, 2015

Co-Parenting: How Tough is it?

If you are getting a divorce and you have children you have probably already discussed co-parenting with your spouse and your attorney.

Co-parenting is sometimes looked upon with uneasiness or even fear for the following reasons:

  1. Anticipation that there will be too much control by the other parent. 
  2. Fear that "I might do something wrong" (get visitation dates wrong, say the wrong thing at a school event, etc.)
  3. "I don't want to interact with my ex-spouse at all"
You can feel more at ease by remembering the following: 

  1. You are doing this for your children, not yourselves.  You can set your boundaries, just be sure to do so calmly, and rationally. Remember, your spouse is learning to deal with a new situation too. Try to speak to your spouse the way that you want to be spoken to, and never berate your spouse to, or in front of, the children. 
  2. Your legal documents are your guide.  Although this is new to you both, you should keep a copy of your temporary orders, or mediation agreement (if the divorce is pending), or decree (once the divorce is final)  handy so that you can see the specifics when you need to
  3. Even if you don't want to interact with your ex-spouse, you'll have to for many years. When your children become adults, you are likely to see your ex at major events.   And you'll have court orders that you both need to follow, even if you wish it weren't so.
  4. Look to the future. If you "take the high road" now, you'll never have to worry about your children coming to you as adults and asking, "why did you always put my mom down in front of me" or "remember when you used to say _________ about my dad? Well, that hurt me!"
If you have a potentially harmful or dangerous situation (one that involves domestic violence or sexual assault of yourself or your children), co-parenting may not be appropriate for your situation.    If this is true share the details with your attorney early on so that the Judge can make specific orders that are good for the children, while keeping safety in mind. 

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Keeping Yourself Safe- Know the Risks of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a silent killer that can kill in minutes.   Keep yourself and your family safe from this hazard by following these tips:

  1. Never run generators in indoor spaces, even in garages, porches or sheds.  Only operate them outdoors in an open space, away from and downwind of buildings. 
  2. Don't use a gas range or oven for warmth. 
  3. Don't use a charcoal or barbeque grill in your home or garage. 
  4. Don't start up gasoline engines for tools in small or enclosed spaces. 
  5. Don't use a stove or fireplace unless it is properly ventilated.
  6. Don't run your car or truck in an attached garage with the door shut, or let it idle there. 
Symptoms of CO poisoning are nausea, headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, sleepiness, weakness.  

Space heaters that give off CO are hazardous, especially because they are often used when people are already sleeping, so they don't notice the symptoms of CO poisoning.

Also be aware of CO dangers to your pets, especially when they are alone in the house, and to pets and livestock in their shelters. 

If you suspect CO, open all the doors and windows, get out and call the file department, gas department or 911. 

Consider having a CO detector which is battery-operated (or has a battery backup). Check and maintain the detector, but still follow all safety precautions. 

(Thanks to the New York State Department of Health for this summary) 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Sunday, August 2, 2015

I Told you 5 Million Times not to Exaggerate!

Exaggeration serves a purpose when you are writing a story, entertaining people, or trying to be creative. There are even times when you may exaggerate the risk of a problem to get someone's attention and for their own good. In sales exaggeration is called "puffing" and a certain amount of it is expected. However exaggerating when you have a legal case going can be a mistake and can cost you money.

Always be honest with your lawyer about the damages you have suffered for the amount of money or property that is it risk in your case. If you don't know for sure, or there is a wide range, say so. 

If you have to answer written discovery, or give a deposition, exaggeration is not a good idea. It will come back to bite you later when you are on the stand in the courtroom. 

Do a reality check with yourself and make sure that you are being realistic about the damages and facts in your case and also about your expectations. This will save you embarrassment as well as money.

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, July 27, 2015

The 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA").   This was the first comprehensive law to protect the civil rights of Americans with Disabilities.

We are now used to seeing wheelchair ramps, handicapped parking spaces and telephone or ATM options for people with disabilities.  But, 25 years ago, these everyday items were not common.  

The ADA has made much progress, but like any change in civil rights law, it was met with some resistance, as well as some confusion.  Decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, other state and federal courts, and administrative agencies, have helped shape the law into what it is today. Congress also acted to amend and clarify the law and those changes and clarifications went into effect in 2009. 

Here are some agencies and groups relating to the rights of people with disabilities:

In Texas:
Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services
Disability Rights Texas
Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services

And here is a Federal resource page for disability rights and laws: Disability Resources from the U.S. Department of Labor

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, July 20, 2015

Living in an Abusive Situation- Making a Personal Safety Plan

If you (or someone that you know) is living in an explosive, abusive situation, a plan for personal safety is important.

The Montgomery County Texas Sheriff Department has an excellent checklist that applies to various stages of the situation.

First of all, it is important to know what to do if violence erupts.  For instance, know how to get out of the way of anything that could be used as a weapon, where the safest places in the house are located, who you could call and where to go if you had to leave suddenly, and devise a code word to use with family, friends and children to indicate an emergency or need to contact police.

Secondly, have emergency plans in place. Know where your important papers and financial information is located (or have copies of important documents stored in a safe place off premises), know about domestic abuse shelters that are available.  And don't forget to have an alternate plan for your pets to insure that they are fed and safe. (Domestic abuse shelters can  often help with this).

Third, there is a reminder that leaving the abuser is the most dangerous time. He or she will feel control slipping away and can become desperate.   Therefore, you may need to get an immediate protective order. Carry it with you at all times and decide in advance that you will call police if necessary, no  hesitation.

Fourth, make sure you are safe in your own residence.  Lock doors, use lighting, watch your back when coming and going. Don't give your abuser information about you, your premises, or your schedule.

Fifth, know how to stay safe on the job, what to tell your employers and co-workers. Make sure you inform your child's school, day care, and those in charge of after-school activities of your situation.

The Montgomery County Sheriff list is good advice for those in an abusive situation no matter what the location.  If you live outside the Montgomery County Texas area, be aware that other resources are also available online for your county.

(Photo is of Safe Haven of Tarrant County, Fort Worth)

 Kalish Law Office - Family Law - The Woodlands, Texas 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, July 6, 2015

Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect in Texas

There are two ways to report child abuse or neglect in Texas.   The Texas Abuse Hotline is available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, nationwide.  The phone number is 800-252-5400.  This line can be used for emergency as well as non-emergency reports.

There is also a Internet Reporting Website . The internet report should not be used for an emergency situation, as these internet reports can take 24 hours to process. An emergency should be reported to the toll free number.  (An emergency is "an immediate risk of abuse or neglect that could result in death or serious harm.").

If you wish to remain anonymous and do not wish an email confirmation of your report, call the toll free hotline.

Texas law says that anyone who suspects abuse, neglect or exploitation of a child must report it to DFPS (Department of Family & Protective Services, commonly referred to as "CPS" for "Child Protective Services"). Also, the Texas Family Code requires that professionals who suspect child abuse, neglect or exploitation make a report within 48 hours.

And don't forget-- if the situation is an emergency, call 911. You do not need to wait to talk to DFPS.

People are understandably fearful of getting involved with a situation they don't understand. However, someone who cares enough to make a report may be a child's best or only hope of rescue from a dangerous situation.

It is never legally or morally acceptable to make a report to retaliate against someone.  Making a false report is a felony and can also carry civil penalties.  (Texas Family Code Section 261).

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Monday, June 29, 2015

How to Report Abuse of the Elderly or Disabled in Texas

In Texas, abuse of an elderly person or disabled person should be reported to Adult Protective Services which is a part of the Department of Family and Protective Services.

Adult Protective Services investigates allegations of abuse against elderly and disabled persons whether they occur in home or in a facility. If a person is found to be a victim of abuse they may be eligible for short-term help with medical care, transportation, food, shelter, home repairs, managing money, home healthcare services, or mental health services.

For fiscal year 2014, APS intake totaled 18,701 complaints for the Houston area.  Abuse of elderly and disabled persons has gained more widespread awareness in the past few years. 

Elderly or disabled persons may be abused or exploited in a variety of ways whether physical, sexual, financial, or they may be neglected. Unable to speak for themselves, the elderly and disabled are vulnerable and may suffer verbal abuse, broken bones, cuts, bruises, bedsores, or malnutrition.

A person may also be neglected and living an unsafe or unsanitary conditions. Financial exploitation can result in funds or assets being stolen by a third party.

In addition to reporting suspected abuse, there are other ways that you can help. The Department of family and protective services maintains resource rooms that contain medical supplies and other supplies necessary for daily life in order to help elderly and disabled persons. There are also volunteer opportunities. To learn more about this click here.

If you live outside Texas, your area will have similar methods of reporting.  Check the internet, or call Protective Services or local law enforcement in your area. 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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