Wednesday, September 12, 2007
The very first thing you need to do is order a certified copy of the current court order. Any attorney that you talk to will need to read this document to understand what is currently ordered by the judge in your case. Even if you no longer live in that state or county, you need to have the document reviewed because it controls until it is modified. In Harris County you order a certified copy at the Harris County Civil Courthouse downtown. The cost is $1 per page. They do not accept checks. Most court records are open documents and anyone can order a copy. Usually only certain cases are not available to the public -- for example usually only adoption records are sealed.
If you are behind on your child support obligations many bad things can happen to you. Here are some of them:. 1. You can go to jail. 2. Your credit will reflect the debt & your credit rating will be ruined 3. Your bank account(s) can be "hit" by the Texas Attorney General. 4. Your tax refund will be "taken" 5. You will lose your driver's license 6. You will lose any professional license you have (attorney, doctor, electrician, etc.) 7. You will lose your passport 8. Your Social Security payments will be reduced when you begin receiving Social Security benefits. You cannot include child support in bankruptcy. It is a debt that never goes away. When you die your estate is liable for the debt. Please pay your child support on time!
Even if a parent wants to terminate their parental rights in Texas, many courts won't do it. Why? Because if the other parent dies then the child will be an orphan. Also, it is the policy of the State of Texas via our legislature (that meets every 2 years) that ALL parents should support their children. It is the policy of the State of Texas that every parent supports their children and the children do not have to be supported by the state or federal government programs. Being supported by the state or federal government programs includes any sort of financial assistance including food stamps, WIC, housing, and health insurance coverage. Many judges feel that the taxpayers of the State of Texas should be providing health care, food, and housing to children. The judges feel that their parents should be doing so. This policy varies from judge to judge.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Amen! Some people want everything dirt cheap -- but they expect "cadillac" quality. Unfortunately, some people have unrealistic expectations of what "cheap" legal services truly mean. I warn people that if you hire do it cheap and it does not work, it might cost you more for me to fix it. I, of course, recommend doing it right from the beginning. There is another old saying - penny wise and dollar foolish -- people try to save a few cents but end up spending many more dollars in time wasted and in shoddy workmanship. When I take my car to my mechanic, I expect the best from him. My clients expect the same from me. I just spent over $1,200 on my car having its 90,000 check-up and then a week later the radiator overheated while I was out of town. I was upset, but every mechanic I talked to assured me that sometimes radiators break without warning. My regular mechanic had fixed a bunch of stuff under the hood so the new radiator was only the cost of the radiator -- instead of $900 -- it ran me around $300.
No matter how much people stress price, they really want quality. The bitterness of workmanship remains long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a partnership of the Federal Bureau of Investigaiton (FBI)_ and the National Whtie Collar Crime Cneter (NW3C). The IC3's mission is to serve as a vehicle to receive, dlevelop and refer criminal complaints regarding the rapidly expanind arena of cyber crime. Unfortunately, this is a rapidly growing problem all over the world. You must be very careful and be suspicious at all times. Don't give out your social security number to anyone (or a machine) that calls and asks for the last 4 digits of your SS#. I received a call once from a computer claiming to be my bank and they needed my last 4 digits of my SS#. I was suspicious since they were calling me at work on a back line. I hung up and called my bank. I went through at least 3 people and eventually they informed me that no one had called me asking for my SS#. Obviously, this was a computer just calling random numbers hoping that idiots would give out their social security number. If you have elderly parents, please warn them. They are the most trusting and are often taken advantage of by evil people. I've been paying my father's bills for over 5 years and occasionally I get some bogus mastercard or visa for an amount under $400. Since I pay all his bills, I know it's totally bogus. When I write the company on my legal stationery, I never hear from them again. Unfortunately, my father fell for this scam and I think he got on a "sucker" list. I worry about how much money he lost before I took over paying his bills. Read your bills very carefully. I have found several unauthorized charges on my credit cards. I have also received papers that look like bills but when I read the fine print they are just soliciting my business. There is one company that does a great job looking like the AT&T yellow pages but if you read to the bottom of the page in very small print it admits they are not AT&T. Same goes for "Who's Who" groups. I get "chosen" on a regular basis to be included in ....'s Who's Who. They are rip offs and a total waste of time and money. Summary, be suspicious and don't be afraid to ask for proof that you authorized this charge.
Go online to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at www.antiphishing.org for information about phishing attacks. In 2006, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) launced a campaign to advise consumers on techniques to avoid identity theft. Their free kit is at http://www.consumer.gove/theft/ If you are a victim of phishing, and you would like to warn others, please email email@example.com.
Go online to www.fcc.gov/cgb/donotcall or call 1-888-382-1222 to register your phone number. The do not call list does not cover companies that you have given prior written permission to call you, tax exempt non-profit organizations, non commercial calls, calls that do not solicit advertisements, and comapneis that you already have an established relationship with. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are authorized by the Telephone Consumer Prottection Act (TCPA) .
I strongly beg you to keep all receipts for anything you purchase for your child. If you take the child and buy a coat, keep the receipt until they reach 22. If you take the kid(s) to BurgerKing, keep the receipt. Everything you buy -- prescriptions, school supplies, sporting goods, movies, food, cell phone, cash to kid -- you need to have proof. If you don't have physical proof, it is not work zip. It's also nice to have eye-witnesses to purchases. However, memories can be "fuzzy" over time so I also encourage keeping paperwork. If in doubt, keep it!
If you have minor children, I strongly urge both parents to do the paperwork right. It protects both parties. If the child support is paid through the Texas Disbursement unit, their payment schedule is automatically accepted by the courts. If you had your spouse cash, your spouse might develop "amnesia" at a later date and not recall ever receiving any child support payments. If that happens, the burden shifts to you to prove that you paid every month. The interest rate on past due child support is 6%. It adds up quickly. If the Texas Attorney General's office gets involved, I strongly, strongly urge you to retain an attorney. If you miss one appearance before the judge, the State can get a default judgment against you. Again, the burden then shifts to you as to why you missed the hearing. If the court finds that you owe retroactive child support you have a very limited time frame to ask for a new hearing. If you are found to be behind in child support payments the following could happen to you: 1. jail 2. all IRS tax refunds get directed to parent with custody of the child(ren) 3. your bank accounts will get drafted against and your outstanding checks will bounce 4. you could lose your driver's license 5. you could lose your U S passport 6. if you hold any sort of license to work (doctor, dentist, chiropractor, electrician, plumber, hairdresser, lawyer, etc.) you can lose your license 7. your credit reflect the past due amount 8. bad credit will mean that you will never be able to buy a home 9. child support is NOT dischargable through bankruptcy 10. child support obligation never goes away -- you could be paying it when you retire 11. the child support obligation continues even after you die -- your estate will need to deal with it. Texas just passed some new laws on death and child support that just went into effect. I will address the new law at a later time. If I have not scared you yet, then I have not done my job.
I receive calls on a daily basis from people that don't want to pay to have their divorce papers done right. They don't want to spend under $1,000 for a divorce with children since the spouses are getting along. I refuse to do the paperwork and suggest that they hire someone else. I warn them that if the other attorney messes up the papers, it is going to cost them more for me to fix them! As I like to say, my plumber agrees not to practice law if I agree not to try to fix my own plumbing. In fact, my plumber loves do it yourselfers since he makes more money fixing the messes they create. Likewise, if I have to fix a "mess" it is going to be more costly than doing it right the first time. I went to law school for over 3 years and had to take a 2-1/2 day exam in order to practice law in the State of Texas. It just is not as easy as some people think.