Thursday, April 27, 2017

Texting While Driving Bans Moving Forward in Texas

April, 2017 - The Texas House has passed a bill that would prohibit texting while driving statewide. These bans already exist in several Texas counties, but there is not a statewide ban in effect---yet.  

Many Texas cities already have a ban on using a handheld device while driving. Among these are at least two cities which are local to our law firm: Conroe and Magnolia. A more complete list of the cities with bans can be found on the Texas Department of Transportation site. 

Also, keep in mind that some laws prohibit "texting", but other laws prohibit using "handheld devices".  So, even if you are looking at your GPS, or checking to see who just called you, you may be in violation.  Check out this link from the National Conference of State Legislatures for more information on specific state laws.  And remember, even if there is not a statewide ban on certain behavior, a county or a city ordinance may prohibit it. 

In addition, there are laws that relate to underage drivers using cell phones while driving, such as "drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using wireless communication devices," and "drivers with learner's permits are prohibited from using handheld cell phones in the first six months of driving."  (Texas Department of Transportation website)

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, one in five crashes involves driver inattention.

Family Law, Business Law, Real Estate Law, Probate
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Adult Adoptions & Why They Matter So Much

When you think of an adoption, if you are like most people, you probably think of an adult adopting a child. But if you have been adopted as an adult, or know someone who has, you have a more inclusive view. 

Here is why more people are opting for adult adoption!

When divorce increased in the U.S. in the 1970's, the structure and definition of "family" began to change.  As more blended families came into being, children had more than two parents.

Additionally, there were parents who were not divorced, but were single parents by choice or by situation.

A stepparent raising a child may desire to become that child's legal parent but for various reasons, an adoption did not happen when the child was young.

Here are some situations in which adult adoptions may be sought:

  1.  The "child" (I'll say "adoptee" from now on) had a biological parent who would not agree to the stepparent adoption when the adoptee was a minor;
  2. The biological parent perhaps would agree, but may have been hurt;
  3. The biological parent was not safe and was not a good influence and contacting him/her for permission to adopt would have put the child at risk;
  4. The family realized later in life that they wanted to make the parent-child relationship a legal one as well as an emotional one;
  5. An adult who is adopted does not need a biological parent's permission, therefore the process is simpler and less expensive. 
An adult adoption is a happy situation for the family because it recognizes the love and affection that have existed for years.   We are proud to have been a part of many adult adoptions over the years! 

Please see Laura Kalish's "Guide to Adult Adoption" on AVVO. 

Family Lawyers in The Woodlands, Texas
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, April 10, 2017

A Background Check is Required for an Adult Name Change

An adult who wants to legally change his or her name in Texas will find that a background check is necessary. Fingerprints must be provided and they will be run through state and federal databases in order to receive a criminal background check.  

The petition for name change will be filed in a Texas court. Once the case number is assigned, the fingerprints can be submitted. The results of the background check will need to be transmitted to the court with the case number so that the results can be united with the case file for the judge to see.

There is also certain information which must be included in the petition for name change. This includes Driver's license numbers for the past 10 years, whether the person has been convicted of a felony, must register as a sex offender, has been charged with an offense above a Class C misdemeanor, and other such information.

You cannot just run your own background check privately. It will need to be done through official channels, such as through Texas DPS, the FBI or a local police station.  Check with your attorney or with local authorities if you are not sure where to go in your area.

All of these requirements are in place in order to prevent name changes that are requested for improper reasons, or are sought in order to cover up criminal activities such as defrauding creditors, evading sex offender registrations, or fleeing the law for some other reason.  Some common and permissible reasons that adults seek a name change are: to have their last name match the rest of their family members, as part of an adult adoption, or for professional reasons.

It is common for an adult name change to occur in a divorce, without the person having to file a separate lawsuit.  So, if you are about to divorce and think you may want to change your name, the time to do so is in the final divorce decree. Otherwise, you will have to file a new suit later on.

Family Lawyers in The Woodlands, Texas
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Thursday, April 6, 2017

When can you Finalize your Texas Divorce?

Once the decision is made to divorce, one or both parties may be in a hurry to complete the process.   However, there is a sixty day "cooling off" period in Texas. This means that generally a divorce case will need to be on file for at least 60 days before finalization. 

So, why not go to court on day 61?   Well, it is possible when a case is uncontested. But, in reality, there is a lot to do between the time of filing and the time of the final hearing.   The final paperwork (Final Decree and required Vital Statistics form at a minimum) must be all ready to hand to the judge.  Property and debts will need to be split (on paper and in reality), living arrangements made, insurance figured out, and visitation and support agreements worked out if children are involved.  This usually takes a while to accomplish. Then it is a matter of scheduling an appearance in front of the judge and appearing.

Yes, there are some people who are able to get a divorce in a short amount of time but getting a divorce on day 61 is the exception rather than the rule.

So, don't be disappointed if your divorce isn't ready for finalization on day 61. It is more important to do it right than to do it fast.

Here are a few tips on how to keep things moving along:

  1. Make sure you are both on the same page.   Details matter. Finding out at the last minute that you do not really agree on one or more issues will prolong things and create stress. 
  2. Make sure you know all the requirements and meet them. If you had to take a parenting class, make sure you've done so and that you have proof. Don't forget to fill out all required forms. 
  3. Don't wait until the last minute to review and sign documents. Give yourself plenty of time to read, digest, and ask questions. Then, when you are ready, don't forget to sign. 
  4. Understand Scheduling Issues.   The Court will either schedule your case for a specific time or you may be allowed to appear on a general "uncontested" docket day in first-come-first-served order (depending on the court and the county).  This will require coordination of schedules with the court, one or both parties and one or both attorneys.   
  5. Deal with problems head-on.  If you know there is a problem pending, get it out in the open and out of the way early on. Waiting until the day of the hearing can delay the entire procedure and lead to frayed nerves. 

Family Lawyers in The Woodlands, Texas
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
Se habla español