Monday, November 5, 2012

Randy Sorrells honored at STCL

South Texas College of Law has moved their legal clinics into a new home and greatly expanded their student legal clinics in order to serve the Harris County indigent population.

They have named the new legal clinic the Randy Sorrels ('87) Legal Clinic in his honor.

The Honorable Leta Parks

The Honorable Leta Parks has been named Chair of the College of the State Bar of Texas - congratulations Leta!

What a great honor for an outstanding lady!

Harris County, Texas Free Legal Services Phone Numbers

Attorney General Office

Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse

Lone Star Legal Aid

Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program

University of Houston
Legal Aid Clinic

South Texas College of Law
Randy Sorrells Legal Aid Clinic

Free Legal Advice
Houston Bar Association
Free Legal Line - first & third Wednesday each month for 5pm - 9 pm

Texas Father's for Equal Rights

Women's Legal Hotline

Crisis Hotline

District Attorney for Harris County

Houston Area Women's Center

SAFE Program
Court Ordered Supervised Visits with Minor Children

Harris County Child Protective Services
To report abuse and/or neglect of minor children

This is not an exclusive list
Look on-line for more agencies

You can always call the "United Way" for more agencies

Crisis Hotline or Houston Area Women's Center might have other referrals if
they are unable to assist you - remember - never give up - keep calling if
you need assistance of any kind - funding changes each year because
grant money moves - so no list is ever accurate for more than a year --
if you need help -- you have to call around to find the help YOU NEED!

Good luck!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

What is a BVS form in the State of Texas?

You will need to submit a BVS form to the Court for all divorces and other family law cases in Texas.

BVS stands for Bureau of Vital Statistics.

This form is sent to Austin to be filed -- it is entered into a central computer system available to people to "track" to see if you are divorced.

Before Texas started the BVS Form tracking system, attorneys had to call each county clerk's office to see if a person was divorced in that county.  It was time-consuming and inaccurate.

I think this tracking system started less than 10 years ago - but I could be wrong on the exact time of when it started -- quite frankly I've forgotten.  

Initially attorneys hated filling out the form because it required getting a lot of information from clients - Social Security numbers, dates of birth, Texas Driver's License Numbers, home addresses, city they were born in, race, maiden name, kid's social security number, kid's date of birth, etc.

Also, a lot of attorneys did not like a state agency having all of this information available on Texas residents - but now attorneys have gotten grown accustomed to it.

The judges will not grant a divorce without submitting the form -- no form - no divorce.

Now an attorney can just contact Austin and find out if a divorced has been filed -- quick and easy!

Do It Yourself Forms for Texas Residents -

Go to for assistance if you are doing a divorce or need other assistance in a civil matter in the State of Texas.

Texas Law

I talked to a Harris County Family Court judge 2 days ago and he does NOT like this website because he said the Final Decree of Divorce does NOT properly divide real estate!

So, if you own real estate -- BEWARE!  It will not give you proper title to the property so you will have trouble selling the real estate in the future since no title company will issue you a title policy if this is the only piece of paper you have giving you ownership of the real estate.  In other words, if you try to use this Final Decree of Divorce from the above-listed website as proof that you own a piece of real estate at a later date, you have a worthless piece of paper!


But if you have no kids, no property...this website might work for you.

You will need to submit a BVS form to the Court for all divorces in Harris County.
This form is sent to Austin to be filed -- it is entered into a central computer system available to people to "track" to see if you are divorced.  Before Texas started the BVS (Bureau of Vital Statistics Form tracking system, several years ago, attorneys had to call each county clerk's office to see if a person was divorced in that county.  Now an attorney can just contact Austin and find out if a divorced has been filed -- quick and easy!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Updating my website -

Stay tune for changes to my website!

James Strictland, my outstanding and creative web designer, and I talked for an hour today.
I authorized him to do a total over-haul of my website.
It's the first time in over 6 years that I'm letting him have full reign to do what he wants to do!
I trust him so it's time for my website to get a fresh, clean new look & feel.

He is totally re-designing the site and making it faster + making me the latest & greatest in technology.

He convinced me to add some new "techie" stuff to my site so "stay tuned" for some new gadgets to be added in the next month!

I want it to be "dazzling", fast and consumer friendly.

I want it to impress the under-30 crowd but not over-whelm anyone visiting my site.

I will now also have an abbreviated site for smart phones -- something that did not exist a couple of years ago.  Now that I surf on my own smart phone on a daily basis, I want my website to be accessible to people looking for a mediator.

Check back frequently in the next few weeks.

Additionally, this blog should be moving to my website to make it easier for me to post -- Google+ has been a nightmare -- I now have 4 Google+ accounts that I can't seem to all merge plus posting to this blog is getting harder with the changes in Google+.

(Google are you listening!##$@#$@#$#@$@$@#$@#^$@%^#$%&*#%^&!!)

I look forward to your input and comments.

If you see any typos -- let me know! - FREE mediation website

The Conflict Resolution Information Source website -- 

CRInfo (pronounced "See Our Info") stands for "conflict resolution information source." 

It is a FREE service, funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. 

As a "linking" site, their staff of editors maintains a keyword-coded catalog of over 20,000 Web, print, and organizational resources, as well as event listings and other conflict resolution-related resources.

I just found it and it seems full of interesting sites to look at for mediation information.

I am now advertising with

I just signed on with and for the next 2 years.

I checked with a mediator in Spring, Texas that has success with their services.

I have found it very difficult to get productive mediation leads but it never hurts to get my name out in the public.

I can add "arbitrator" to my list of qualifications

I just completed "arbitrator" training so I can now add that title to my list of qualifications.

In family law, arbitration is not often used so I don't think that I will use it much.

It seems to be used mostly for government work.

FYI: The Better Business Bureau (BBB) does some arbitration work for free or for low cost.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Family law mediation

Divorce mediation is a process where you and your soon to be ex-spouse (or signficant other) meet with a neutral trained third party family law mediator to reach a settlement in your lawsuit (divorce or SAPRC  or modification).

There is no time limit to the mediation so that you have time to explore and discuss options.  There is no limit as to what issues can be discussed - spousal support, child support, assets, debts, visitation, children's hobbies, children's special needs, etc.

However, if a party admits to child abuse or threatens to commit a crime then the mediator MUST immediately stop the mediation process.  Other than those situations, mediation is a confidential, private process.

Many people like mediation because it is cheaper and faster than going to court.  The mediator asks both parties to be honest and negotiate in good faith.  The mediator attempts to level the playing field.  Neither party is allowed to emotionally or physically abuse the other spouse.  A mediator will attempt to diffuse emotions and focus on common goals to resolve your differences.  You will not be forced to enter into a final agreement.  The process is entirely voluntary.  You always have the right to continue with litigation and trial in front of a judge if you are not satisfied with the mediation process.

Many people like the fact that mediation is a private and confidential process.  The offers made cannot be mentioned to the Judge.  (Just like the Las Vegas ad -- what happens at mediation, stays at mediation.)  Often the mediator will "think outside of the box" and bring creative solutions that a judge could not offer because the Judge must follow the Texas Family Code.  A mediator can offer solutions outside the TX Family Code that might work better for you and your children.

Mediation can often begin the healing process to allow the parties to begin to co-parent their children.  Even though the marriage is ending, the parents will be co-parenting their children for the rest of their lives.  In fact, they will be co-grand-parenting their future grand-children.  It is often said that a marriage might be ending but the family endures.  Mediation is much less adversarial that a trial.  At trial, "mud" will be slung to show how bad each of you are - the hurt feelings are traumatic and will probably impact the children.  After "slinging" all that dirt then you get to leave the courthouse and try to co-parent your children together.  Mediation helps the divorcing couple create a parenting plan that focuses on what is best for the parents and the children.  No judge knows you and your children as well as you do.  A judge will make decisions -- but they will probably be decisions that neither of you like.

Mediation is usually not recommended if there has been extensive physical or mental abuse.  Attorneys recognize that there are a small percentage of cases that just need to go to trial in front of a judge.

If you reach an agreement, everyone signs a document called a Mediated Settlement Agreement (MSA) that is filed at the courthouse.  It is binding and cannot be changed.  In other words, you are "stuck" with what you sign. The case is done - finished - completed.  Then an attorney must take the MSA and prepare the final paperwork so that a judge can sign it so that can be "enforced" at a later date if one of the parties does not follow the agreements that both of you agreed to do.

Mediation is one form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).  There are many excellent websites that cover mediation.  Each state handles mediation slightly differently.  In the State of Texas, mediation is normally required before you can get a trial date before a judge.

Most family law attorneys won't tell their clients this when a case first starts, but over 90% of family law cases settle before trial before a judge or jury.  Most cases do not go before a jury because in Texas juries only hear a limited number of family law issues -- plus the cost is prohibitive to most people (expect to pay over $20,000 if you want a jury trial.)

If you have a family law case in Harris County, Texas, anticipate being sent to mediation before you get a hearing date in front of a judge.

There are 2 free mediation services in Harris County.  Private mediators charge from approximately  $250-$1,000 per side for 4 hours.